Adopting a stepchild: Getting the facts

During a stepparent adoption, certain steps must be taken, but they may be different from the steps needed throughout a different kind of adoption.

Families in the Pennsylvania area may find themselves searching for information on the adoption of stepchildren by the stepparent. This is one of the most common types of adoptions in the United States, but not everyone is aware of the facts surrounding the process.

The court must be contacted

In order to make a stepparent adoption legal, the proper courts will have to be contacted, according to Child Welfare Information Gateway. This can be done once all parties have given their consent, but some families choose to contact the courts as a preliminary step. For example, a court clerk may have an informational packet on stepparent adoption that he or she can give the family. This packet may include state-specific information about required legal forms and whether or not a lawyer is mandatory.

In each state and each county, there is a specific court that handles adoption cases. It differs from state to state, but the cases may be handled in family court, juvenile court or surrogacy court.

Consent must be obtained

Before an adoption can be finalized, consent must be given. In the case of a stepparent adoption, both natural parents usually must give their permission. The consent may be given in front of a judge or in writing depending on state law. If the other parent abandoned the child, that parent's permission may not be needed.

Depending on the age of the child being adopted, he or she may also need to give agreement for the adoption to go through. In most states, children between the ages of 10 and 14 have a say in whether their stepparent adopts them.

The other parent may be excluded

According to the Pennsylvania Code, a parent's rights may be involuntarily revoked under certain circumstances. The process for an involuntary termination may require more paperwork than a voluntary waiver of parental rights. Court proceedings in this circumstance may include the following:

  • A notice sent to the other parent and any other intermediaries
  • The child's birth certificate
  • A petition with information about the stepparent, child and natural parents

This information may help the court establish that the other parent has not been a part of the child's life, and therefore can be excluded from the adoption process.

Legal rights are revoked from the other parent

When a stepparent adoption is completed, the other parent loses all legal rights, and obligations, to the child or children involved. This means the parent will neither have the right to visitation nor the duty to pay child support.

When non-traditional families in the Reading area are looking to adopt, there are several laws that must be followed. To ensure the right steps are taken, a stepparent may want to talk with a knowledgeable attorney.