If you married a person who already had children, during the course of your marriage, your relationship to the kids grew strong. At some point, you may consider adopting them as your own.
Can you do this? If so, what would it entail?
It’s a big step to legally take on the responsibility of another person’s child or children. If this is something that you want to do, it’s important to fully understand the ramifications of making this decision.
What a stepparent adoption means
If you decide to adopt your stepchildren, you legally become their parent, and as such, are financially and otherwise responsible for them just as if you fathered or bore them yourself. When you adopt them, this also releases their non-custodial biological parent from supporting them financially and for other parenting responsibilities.
Who must agree to this?
Both biological parents must consent that the stepparent adopts the child(ren) unless the noncustodial parent’s rights have been terminated or the “parent has failed without justifiable cause to communicate with the minor or to provide for the maintenance and support of the minor as required by law or judicial decree for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the filing of the adoption petition.”
You should understand that in the past, family law judges in Ohio determined that simply mailing a child a card or letter on birthdays or sporadically can be construed as needing the bio parent’s consent to continue with the adoption.
What about a homestudy?
Just as if this were a typical adoption by two non-related parents, you will need to submit to a homestudy in order to adopt your stepchild(ren).
How long does it take?
You must wait six months after you file the petition to adopt your stepchild(ren) unless they have lived with you already for no fewer than six months.
Does the child have to agree to the adoption?
Children older than 13 must consent to be adopted by their stepparent. It is not a requirement for younger children, but presumably, you and the stepchild have a close enough relationship that this is wanted by both of you.
What steps must I take to adopt my stepchild?
An Ohio family law attorney with experience handling stepchild adoptions can guide the process for you and make it easier to achieve your aims.