Stepparent adoption can make sense for many families, for all sorts of reasons. Understanding how it works in Ohio can help you get started with the process.
While the rules themselves tend to be relatively straightforward, each situation can present its own individual challenges, so avoid just filling out the forms and hoping for the best. Speaking with an attorney can alert you to possible problems and clarify the best way to address them.
Change in parental status
The first, and main, thing to know about stepparent adoption is that it is a substitution, not an addition. When a stepparent gains the legal status of a parent, the biological parent loses it. Thus, the stepparent becomes responsible for the child's support and well-being, while the biological parent no longer has any such responsibilities, including child support payments.
Ohio law requires the consent of the biological parent who will be losing parental rights, with two exceptions. One is if court order already terminated the parent's rights. The other is when the parent has failed to communicate with or provide support for the child for at least one year, without reasonable excuse. Courts tend to protect biological parents' rights, so even very slight contact, such as mailing a card, may create a necessity for obtaining the parent's consent.
As with other types of adoption, the law does require a home study assessing the appropriateness of the adoption, even when the child already lives in the household. Some courts also require the stepparent to have legal representation.
The court will also conduct a hearing to speak with the relevant parties and determine what would be in the best interest of the child.
Permanent nature of adoption
Stepparent adoption creates a permanent parent-child relationship in the eyes of the law. Even in the event of a subsequent divorce, the stepparent will continue to bear the responsibility of supporting the child.