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Dads and Step-Parent Adoption

Protecting parental rights in step-parent adoption cases

Issues to Address When Adopting a Step-Child

If you're a dad who has gotten divorced, or if you're separated from your child's mom, it's common to want to move on and begin a relationship with a new partner. However, getting married when you have kids from a previous relationship can be complicated, especially if your new partner also has kids of her own or if you plan to have additional children together. Learning how to function together as a blended family can take some time, and kids may need to adjust to having step-parents in their lives alongside their birth parents. In some cases, a step-parent may wish to adopt their partner's child and become a legal parent. If you're thinking of adopting a step-child, or if your ex's new spouse wishes to adopt your child, you'll want to be sure to understand your rights and the legal procedures that will need to be followed.

Adopting Your Step-Child

In many cases, step-parent adoptions are fairly straightforward, since they don't usually involve a home study or other requirements that prospective parents would need to meet when adopting a child from an adoption agency. However, one issue that can sometimes arise is the potential difficulty of obtaining consent from the child's other parent.

Since a child can only have two legal parents, the parental rights of one biological parent must be terminated before a step-parent adoption can occur. If you wish to adopt your step-child, the birth father may not be willing to give up his rights as a father. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome these objections, especially if the father has not been present in his child's life. You may need to show that the birth father is unfit to continue to serve as the child's parent. Depending on the laws in your state, a father may be found unfit if he has abandoned the child for several months, has committed acts of child abuse or other forms of domestic violence, or has consistently failed to pay child support.

Once the adoption process is complete, you'll be the child's legal parent, giving you full rights and responsibilities as a father. This means that if you and your step-child's mother ever get a divorce, you will have the right to share in child custody and have reasonable visitation/parenting time. You'll also be obligated to provide child support.

Can My Child Be Adopted by a Step-Parent?

If your child's mom gets remarried, you may be concerned that her new husband might want to formally adopt them. However, you don't have to consent to an adoption simply because it's what your ex wants, and you cannot be forced to give up your parental rights unless you're found to be an unfit parent. Even if paternity was never formally established, you may be able to prevent the adoption of your child by registering as a putative father. This will ensure that you are notified if someone wishes to adopt the child, and you may be given the opportunity to become a legal parent and secure your parental rights.

You can protect your rights as a father by continuing to play a close and involved role in your child's life. Make sure you're following your parenting time schedule correctly, and remain current on all child support payments. If you can demonstrate that maintaining a parental relationship with your child would be in their best interests, the chances that you would be found to be an unfit parent are low.

Whether you're looking to adopt your spouse's child or want to ensure that you don't lose your parental rights, you'll want to work with an experienced family law attorney. Your lawyer can explain your legal options, help you meet the necessary requirements, and provide you with representation in any legal proceedings. With their help, you can continue to be the father your children deserve.

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