Florida law provides an avenue for stepparents to adopt their stepchildren. After a divorce, it is common for a person to remarry. Sometimes, a spouse will remarry and the new spouse wishes to adopt his or her stepchild either right away or after some time has passed. There are certain legal procedures and requirements that must be followed for the adoption to go through, but, upon successful completion, the adoptive step-parent will have full parental legal rights with regard to the stepchild.
What is the Process for Step-Parent Adoption?
In order to be eligible for step-parent adoption, the person seeking to adopt must be the spouse of the child’s mother or father. Additionally, a person will be eligible to adopt so long as he or she does not have a disability or handicap that would prevent the ability to be an effective parent. The stepparent adoption process begins when the stepparent files the petition in the circuit court for the county in which he or she lives. Since the stepparent is the one petitioning the court, he or she is referred to as the “petitioner.”
In the petition, there are several required pieces of information that must be provided. This includes:
- The date and birthplace of the stepchild
- A description of how long the stepchild has been in the stepparent’s custody
- A statement that the stepparent has the physical ability to care for the needs of the stepchild
- A statement of the reasons why the stepparent wishes to adopt the stepchild
The petition must be sworn to before a notary or someone with similar authority. Also, supporting documentation must be filed along with the petition. This means that any copies of any judgments that have terminated parental rights must be attached. Any consents to the adoption must be attached. If the stepchild is 12 years of age or older, his or her consent to the adoption should be attached as well. More often than not, the parent presently married to the stepparent will consent to the adoption.
If a parent does not consent to the adoption, the court may waive consent pursuant to reasons provided in Chapter 63, Florida Statutes. Reasons the court may waive consent include:
- The parent has abandoned the child
- The parent has had his or her parental rights terminated by court order
- The parent has been declared judicially incompetent and restoration of competency is medically improbable
- The legal guardian or lawful custodian, who is not a parent, failed to respond in writing to a request for consent for 60 days or who the court has deemed to be unreasonably withholding consent
Notice must be served on all interested parties once the petition and supporting documentation has been filed. After notice is served, the court will have a hearing to terminate parental rights and finalize the stepparent adoption. Upon finalization of the adoption, the stepparent will have all legal parental rights with regard to the child. Should the marriage of the stepparent later end in divorce, he or she would be responsible for any child support payments.
Dedicated Family Law Counsel
Stepparents often come to play huge roles in the lives of their stepchildren. It is only natural to think of making that parental relationship official through stepparent adoption. At Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, our family is here to help yours. Let our team of dedicated family law attorneys guide your family through the stepparent adoption process to make sure it is done right and resolved as quickly as possible. Contact us today.