While the decision to adopt a child can be an exciting one, the complexities of adoption laws and the corresponding regulations can be potentially discouraging or overwhelming for the prospective families.
Step-parent adoption is a type of adoption in which a step-parent endeavors to adopt a child of his/her current spouse or domestic partner.
Generally, the adoption process for step-parent is less complex as it bypasses some of the requirements, such as the adoption study or required visits, licensing, or the adoption report or CFSA-Child & Family Services’ investigative final report and recommendations.
Specifically the court may dispense with the investigation, report, and interlocutory decree when the petitioner is a spouse or domestic partner of the natural parent of the prospective adoptee and the natural parents consents to the adoption.
During the adoption process, the step-parent or the domestic partner will need to file an adoption petition that would include the consent of the custodial partner (his or her spouse/partner). After the petition has been filed, the court will issue a show cause order to the non-custodial biological parent.
The adoption petition is essentially prosecuted against the non-custodial biological parent.
After service has been effectuated on the non-custodial biological parent, the court via a show cause hearing will determine whether service is effective and whether consent is forthcoming or the matter is contested.
If the non-custodial biological parent contests the adoption, the court can still waive their consent if it established by clear and convincing evidence that he/she have abandoned and have failed to contribute financially toward the child for a period of six month prior to the adoption filing date.
The court may also waive the parental consent if it has been established by clear and convincing evidence that the consent is being withheld contrary to the child’s best interests. The moving parting has the burden of proof.
The best interests of the child will trigger the Termination of Parental Rights elements and the court’s analysis of the following among others:
(1) the child’s need for continuity of care and caretakers and for timely integration into a stable and permanent home, taking into account the differences in the development and the concept of time of children of different ages;
(2) the physical, mental and emotional health of all individuals involved to the degree that such affects the welfare of the child, the decisive consideration being the physical, mental and emotional needs of the child;
(3) the quality of the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parent, siblings, relative, and/or caretakers, including the foster parent;
(4) to the extent feasible, the child’s opinion of his or her own best interests in the matter.
Upon issuance of the final adoption order and decree the step-parent will be listed as the legal parent, and if requested by the petitioner the child’s name may be changed accordingly.
Adoption prosecution as a step-parent especially when contested can be legally involved and the litigation extensive as the process if successful will terminate the parental rights of the non-custodial parent.
If you are contemplating filing an adoption petition contact our offices for an initial case evaluation and to determine whether filing of the petition would be legally feasible or viable.