You may feel that your relationship with your spouse’s children is as close as it would be if you were their biological parent. However, the relationship only gains legal recognition if you adopt your stepchildren.
Stepparent adoption is not a requirement. However, it gives you the authority to make decisions on behalf of your stepchildren, it entitles them to life insurance benefits and inheritance rights and it helps create a sense of stability and permanence for your family.
How do you adopt your stepchildren?
Because you are adopting the biological children of your spouse, the process of stepparent adoption dispenses with some of the formalities required when you adopt a child previously unknown to you. For example, there is no need for a home study, although you still have to have a background check.
Your spouse must consent to the adoption, and if the children are over the age of 12, they must give their consent as well. If the other biological parent is still alive, termination of his or her parental rights must take place before you can finalize the adoption.
How does the termination of parental rights take place?
The other parent may choose to terminate his or her parental rights voluntarily. If he or she refuses to do so, you can petition the court for involuntary termination of parental rights. You must show cause for the petition. For example, involuntary termination of parental rights can take place if the other parent has a criminal record of convictions on certain violent charges, has abused or neglected the child or has failed to perform parental duties.