Stepparent Adoption: Family Lawyers Good for More than Divorces

150502_hand-in-handI live life with the blessing of being fascinated by small, simple things.  I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about the new seedlings that have sprouted in my garden.  It’s a very warm and fuzzy feeling, but It’s not quite like bringing a new child into the world.  If you are a parent yourself or have shared in the experience of welcoming a child to life, you know that the new addition to the family brings in an avalanche of beautiful emotion.  What you may not be aware of is that Stepparents often feel a similar sense of elation when they adopt their spouse’s children.

I’ve had the pleasure to assist many families with stepparent adoptions as a Jacksonville family lawyer.  Although in every situation that I’ve been a part of, the stepmother or stepfather has been a part of the child’s life for years, when the adoption is final, the new parent is overwhelmed with joy.  Once the adoption is final, a legal parent-child relationship is created to go along with the emotional bond that already exists.  The child even gets a new birth certificate with the stepparent’s name on it.  The court records are then sealed, as all adoptions are private matters.

Legal Effect of Stepparent Adoption

Upon finalization of a Final Order of Stepparent Adoption, the adoptive parent becomes the legal parent and enjoys all of the same rights and responsibilities of a biological parent.  The legal ties between the child and the spouse remain intact, while the legal ties between the child and the other parent are dissolved.  The other parent will no longer have the right to visitation and other joys of parenthood, nor will the other parent be required to provide support to the child.  The adoptive stepparent and his or her spouse with have ALL joys and responsibilities of parenting for themselves.

Oftentimes, the child’s name is changed during the adoption.  This way, family wholeness is achieved by allowing all members of the family to have the same last name.

Due to the termination of the other parent’s paternal rights, the duty of future child support goes away.  However, the other parent may still be liable for arrearages, or past due, balances in child support.

The Process

Stepparent adoptions are pretty simple to accomplish in most circumstances.  The major question is whether the stepparent adoption is contested or uncontested.  An uncontested stepparent adoption is where the other parent either agrees and consents to the stepparent adoption, or the other parent has absented himself or herself and can’t be found.  In a contested stepparent adoption, the other parent objects to the adoption of his or her child by the stepparent.  In deciding whether to terminate the other parent’s rights rights, the court must first have legal justification for doing so, and must consider what is in the child’s best interest.

The total length of time from start to finish will depend on several factors.  Under some circumstances, the whole process can be completed within a month’s time.

For More Information

Contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC today at (904) 685-1200 for additional guidance.  Consultations are always free, and our experienced family law attorneys can help.

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