If you are considering adopting your stepchild, the outcome could be absolutely wonderful or intensely problematic. No matter how it works out, you would be making a lifetime commitment.
There are various reasons for adopting a stepchild, but you should be aware of the possible difficulties as well as the benefits before you act.
Reasons for you to adopt
You and your stepchild may be close. Perhaps you, your stepchild and your spouse—the child’s biological parent—have been living together for several years and feel like family. If the other biological parent should die, you may want to formally adopt your stepchild. On the other hand, you and your spouse may have other children together, so adopting your stepchild would give equal status to all the children in the household.
You might also consider adoption in case your spouse should die. This would give you the necessary legal relationship with the child. It would prevent the court from becoming the guardian and making a decision that would send the child off to live with biological relatives.
Other issues to think about
If the other biological parent is living, remember that adoption would cut him or her out of the child’s life forever. You should also think about the relationship you have with your marriage partner. Is it solid? If there is a chance that the relationship might end, adopting your stepchild would probably not be wise. It would also be a bad idea if there is a chance that the other biological parent might contest the adoption.
Consider a guardianship
If for some reason adoption is not feasible, you might consider becoming the child’s legal guardian. This would enable you to have a legal relationship with your stepchild in terms of making decisions about his or her education, medical needs and the basics such as food, shelter and clothing. The other biological parent must consent to your becoming the legal guardian, but you might find less resistance to this idea than to the adoption concept.
Stepchild adoption is a big step. It may be the biggest decision you will ever make, so think it over carefully. You must follow strict procedures the court sets forth, keeping in mind that the judge will always make determinations based on the best interests of the child.