It is common for a stepparent to develop such a close relationship with a stepchild that the stepparent wants to establish it as a legal parent-child relationship through stepparent adoption. By obtaining a stepparent adoption and obtaining a Final Judgment of Stepparent Adoption, the stepparent has the same legal rights and responsibilities regarding the child as that of his or her spouse. The stepparent adoption process in Florida is specific and detail-oriented, but can be well worth it as it solidifies an important relationship that may have already existed for some time.
The Florida Stepparent Adoption Process
Before beginning the stepparent adoption process, it must be first determined whether the stepparent is eligible to adopt the stepchild. In order to be eligible, the stepparent must be, in fact, married to a legal parent of the child. If this is the case, then the stepparent should be good to proceed with the stepparent adoption process.
The first part of the process should begin with obtaining the consent of the child’s noncustodial parent. Should the noncustodial parent object to the adoption and refuse consent, this will likely need to be overcome one way or another in order to proceed with the adoption as the consent of the noncustodial parent is required in most stepparent adoption cases.
Florida law does, however, provide judges with discretion to waive the consent of the noncustodial parent in some cases. If any of the following circumstances are applicable to a stepparent adoption case, then a judge may waive consent:
- The parent has abandoned the child
- The parent’s rights have already been terminated
- The parent has been declared incompetent and unlikely to have their condition improve
In most cases, however, the noncustodial parent will need to consent to the adoption. Furthermore, if the stepchild is 12 years or older, then he or she will usually need to consent to the adoption as well.
To officially kick off the stepparent adoption process, a Petition for Stepparent Adoption must be filed with the court. This is the formal request to the court to grant the adoption which will bestow full parental rights on the stepparent. In the Petition, the stepparent is the petitioner and is joined by the stepparent’s spouse.
The Petition will need to be completed in full and provide such basic information like the birth date and place of birth of the child. It should also detail if the child’s name will be changed should the adoption be finalized and, if so, what name the child will be given. Additionally, the Petition should include a statement regarding how long the stepparent has resided with the child as well as the reasons why the stepparent wants to adopt the child.
Once the Petition has been filed, the noncustodial parent will have a chance to oppose the adoption. Without opposition, however, the court will proceed with finalizing the adoption and a hearing will be scheduled. While stepparent adoption hearings are formal court proceedings, they are usually happy, friendly occasions that only last several minutes. It is a time to verify that the process was followed and everyone present wants the adoption to be finalized.
After the hearing, the final judgment of adoption will be issued. Once the process is complete, an amended birth certificate can be obtained so that it not only lists the stepparent as the child’s mother or father, but it states the child’s new name if that has been changed as well.
Florida Family Law Attorneys
Are you interested in pursuing the stepparent adoption process? The dedicated family law attorneys at Orlando Family Team are here to help. Contact us today.