I Want My New Spouse to Adopt my Child
The make-up of the American family has shifted considerably, and we now embrace a wide variety of domestic situations that are in a child’s best interests. In some cases, a stepparent may wish to fill the void that exists in a family and legally adopt their spouse’s children. While close relationships are possible without legal adoption, there are several reasons why you may wish to take this important step.
Why You May Wish to Consider Stepparent Adoption
When a person marries the custodial parent of minor children, that stepparent often takes on many of the same roles as a legal parent. Stepparents may form deep and meaningful relationships with their stepchildren, acting in every way as if they were that child’s legal parent. The only problem is that stepparents have few legal rights when it comes to those children they are helping to raise. Some of the reasons you may wish to consider stepparent adoption include:
- Security and peace of mind. If something were to happen to you as the custodial biological parent, there could be custody battles if your spouse has not adopted your children. Establishing a legal parent-child relationship between your spouse and child can prevent or minimize the ability of family members of the other parent to attempt to gain custody of your children later.
- Financial benefits. There may be certain financial benefits to stepparent adoption. If you are not claiming your children on your taxes, your spouse could do so as the adoptive parent. They can also add the children to a group health insurance policy, and the adoption entitles the children to inherit from your spouse’s estate.
- Authority to make decisions. A stepparent who has adopted your children is now their legal parent, so they won’t face roadblocks in making health care or school decisions on their behalf.
What is Required to Adopt a Spouse’s Child in South Carolina?
A stepparent cannot adopt a child unless the parental rights of the other parent are first terminated. In other words, if you want your new spouse to adopt your children, you will first have to go through the process of terminating the parental rights of the other biological parent. That parent can voluntarily consent to relinquish their rights, which they may be willing to do because it also releases them from the obligation to pay child support. If this isn’t possible, you will need to seek termination of the other parent’s parental rights through the family court.
Not all biological parents are willing to give up their rights willingly, but some may not have a choice. A stepparent can ask the courts to have the other biological parent’s rights terminated based on a number of grounds, which the adoptive parents would have to prove. Below are some of the most commonly used grounds:
- The parent has not visited or had regular contact with the child in more than 6 months
- The parent has not paid child support in more than 6 months
- The parent has a diagnosable condition which renders them unable to provide minimally acceptable care for the child (including issues with substance abuse)
- The child has been removed from the parent’s home and the parent hasn’t remedied the condition(s) causing the removal
- The parent is not the biological father of the child (but may be the legal or presumed father by way of marriage to the child’s parent during child’s conception and birth)
- Chronic or severe neglect or abuse of the child
- Child abandonment
The South Carolina Stepparent Adoption Process
Provided you are successful in either receiving consent from the other parent or terminating their parental rights, you can move forward with the stepparent adoption process. In South Carolina, if the child is 14 years old or older, you will also need their consent to complete an adoption. A Guardian ad Litem will be appointed to investigate and ensure the adoption would serve the child’s best interests.
After you petition the court to begin the adoption process, you will attend at least one hearing before the adoption can be finalized. Fortunately many of the requirements required for non-relative adoption are waived for stepparent adoptions, like pre- and post-placement investigations and accountings. Many stepparent adoptions can be completed in under six months, especially if they are uncontested.
Speak with a Qualified South Carolina Family Law Attorney
Your family, and particularly your children, deserve as much stability and peace of mind as possible. If you want your new spouse to adopt your children, it’s critical to work with an experienced South Carolina adoption attorney on this process.
Any adoption can be an emotional affair, and the family law attorneys at The Cate Law Firm specialize in breaking down barriers in these complex cases while treating each client’s situation with compassion and sensitivity. Contact our Spartanburg office now at (864) 585-4226 or reach us online to schedule a consultation.