Whether this is your first time handling children or you have experience with your own, being a stepparent is a challenging yet rewarding endeavor. Marrying the children's parent can bring stability into the home, especially if your partner went through a divorce.
You and the children may grow very close together, and you may want to establish the relationship legally through stepparent adoption. The process is not easy, however, so it is important to know what to expect to help make things go as smoothly as possible.
Simply having the desire to become the parent of your spouse's children is not enough. You must meet certain requirements before you can petition the court:
- The children need to have lived with you for at least six months.
- The biological parent must consent to the adoption, as it will mean he or she will lose all parental rights.
- Children over 12 years old must also agree to the stepparent adoption.
You may start the process before the six months, but you will have to wait longer for finalization.
The first step is to file a petition with the probate court, which will cost a fee. If the biological parent does not consent, you will need to show the court that he or she has not communicated with or financially supported the children. A lack of these duties plus evidence that the adoption is in the children's best interests can deem consent unnecessary, allowing you to proceed.
Next, an assessor will visit the home to ensure you are a suitable parent. You will also need letters of reference, a medical report and background check to help your case. The judge will review all evidence and testimonies and then make a judgment. The process can take as little as 90 days if there are no obstacles.
Once you become the legal parent, you can request new birth certificates for the children with your name on them and the children taking your last name if applicable.