What is the Process for a New Spouse to Adopt a Step Child?
Blended families are now more normal in this country, and a new spouse might want to take steps to adopt a stepchild. There are several scenarios in which this might become an issue. A previously divorced parent may bring children into a new marriage, or a parent might marry with children who were born out of wedlock.
There are a variety of reasons to pursue stepparent adoption, some practical and others more emotional. Fortunately, South Carolina law has a more streamlined process for these adoptions, which is not as arduous as other types of adoptions.
Reasons for Adopting a Stepchild
Assuming you are already acting as a child’s parent, what is the point of formalizing that relationship by “making it legal?” First, there might be a stronger emotional connection that develops with a child when a stepparent makes this gesture. Children receive a stronger sense of permanence, knowing that your relationship is legally recognized.
As a stepparent, you may already feel like a parent, but you don’t have legal parental rights. If something were to happen to your spouse, you might have to wage a complex legal battle to assume custody of a child that is already living in your household. Being a legal parent also makes it easier to make parental decisions related to school, healthcare, and other important matters.
South Carolina Stepchild Adoption and the Other Parent
The most complicated part of a stepparent adoption is the consent of the child’s other biological parent. In order for a stepparent to adopt a child, the non-custodial parent will have to lose their parental rights. Parental rights can be terminated in several ways:
- Voluntarily. The non-custodial parent consents to the adoption and voluntarily gives up their parental rights. (This also means they will no longer have to pay child support).
- Abandonment. If there has been no contact or material support provided by the other biological parent, the Family Court can terminate rights based on abandonment.
- Unfit Parent. A Family Court can also terminate the other parent’s rights if they deem that they are unfit due to abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or long-term mental illness.
The Process for a New Spouse to Adopt a Step Child
Until the process is complete you will have a guardian ad litem appointed. Once the parent’s parental rights are terminated, the process for stepparent adoption becomes streamlined. If the child is age 14 or older, you will also need to secure their consent to move forward with the stepparent adoption.
Your family law attorney will then file a petition to move forward with the adoption. Because this is a stepparent adoption, the process is quicker than with other types of adoptions because there are fewer steps and requirements. Some of the things you won’t have to do include:
- You will not have to work with an adoption agency, which can come at considerable cost.
- You won’t have to wait as long for a final hearing, which can be a significant period with other adoptions that have a 90-day waiting period for a hearing.
Many stepparent adoptions can be completed quickly, sometimes in a matter of weeks. Once your petition is filed, a final hearing will be scheduled. The judge will review your filing at that hearing and likely sign the order approving the adoption.
Speak with a Qualified Spartanburg Adoption Attorney
Even with a simplified process, adopting a stepchild can be an emotional process, particularly when dealing with the child’s other biological parent. There are many variables that could slow down or jeopardize your proceeding, and this is why we recommend working with an experienced South Carolina adoption attorney.
At the Cate Law Firm, our knowledgeable family law attorneys have helped guide parents and their children through this process, and we can do the same for you. We aim to provide personalized service so that you can achieve your goals with as little expense and disruption as possible.
Contact our Spartanburg office now at 864-585-4226 or reach us online to schedule an initial consultation.