A Brief Guide to Adopting Your New Spouse's Children

When you get married, any children your spouse may have are not automatically your children. While you may gain the responsibility to support and care for them, you don’t actually have any parental rights. That is, unless you take on the process of adopting them. Adoption grants you parental rights, which then gives you the legal ability to say the children are yours, which can have tremendous benefits for you as a parent and for the children.

Most people believe adoption to be an immensely complicated process requiring a lot of time, hoops to jump through, and headaches. However, when you wish to adopt your new spouse’s children, it actually eliminates a lot of those requirements and instead lets you kind of get down to the primary issue at hand: taking claim of parental rights. On this blog, we’ll explain the two ways you can do this.

Obtaining Consent

This is the preferred and easiest way of obtaining parental rights. In essence, if the other parent (not your spouse, but the child’s biological parent in a corresponding role) agrees to relinquish their rights and claim as a parent, then you can pretty much just sign the paperwork and be done with it. Sounds easy, right? It is, but getting that kind of consent isn’t always so simple. You’re asking a parent to give up quite a bit by doing this, including any legal rights to visitation. If the other parent still wants to remain involved in their child’s life, they may not be so willing to part with that.

Expect to face resistance if you try to explore this route. Some parents are initially reluctant to do so, but in many cases parents who see that you mean well for their child and even will still allow them to see their child will sometimes decide that it’s in everyone’s best interests to let their claim go.

What If They Refuse?

So what happens if the other parent refuses to let their rights go? Well, if they’ve served as a model parent for their child, odds are there isn’t much you can do. However, if they have been an “unfit” parent, such as having “abandoned” their child, physically or emotionally abused them in the past, or their relationship with their child is toxic and harmful to their upbringing, you may be able to still adopt the child without needing to obtain their consent.

To do so, your spouse (the other parent) must consent to the adoption and sign a petition which you must file with a family law court. You must then serve notice to the other parent, which will include a statement of your intent and a hearing date. The other parent will be given an opportunity to respond, and if they do, you’ll have to attend a hearing. At this hearing, you’ll both present your arguments as to why you should be allowed to adopt the child (or in the other parent’s case, why their parenting rights should not be terminated), and the court will ultimately issue a decision. If the court finds that the birth parent is unfit and has forfeited their parenting rights, you’ll be given the ability to officially adopt your spouse’s children. If not, then the other parent will retain their rights.

If you’re considering adopting your spouse’s children as your own, it’s strongly advised you speak with an attorney about your case in order to start developing arguments and find out whether or not the option is prudent for you. Call The Virga Law Firm, P.A. today at (800) 822-5170 and let a skilled member of our team guide you towards the best possible solution for your issue.