When you get married and your spouse has children from a previous marriage, those children do not automatically become your children in a legal sense. 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.
Although the terms "step parent" and "adoption" are commonly understood, when the two are placed together, many can become confused regarding the legal process. Although step parent adoption is one of the most common forms of adoption, there is a particular legal process and eligibility that the child and parent must go through in order to solidify their legal ties.
If you are a step parent wishing to adopt your spouse’s child, ensure you are properly represented by an experienced adoption attorney.
When Can I Adopt My Partner's Children?
All forms of adoption, including step parent adoption is governed by chapter 63 of Florida Statutes. Relevant statute provides, that in order to be eligible to adopt under the step parent procedure in Florida, the single eligibility requirement of the individual wishing to adopt is that they be legally married to a legal parent of the child. Therefore, even if you are in a long term relationship and hold each other out as a married couple, but have not taken the steps to enter a legal marriage, you will not be able to adopt as a step parent.
However, if you are married, then your next step is to file a Petition to Adopt.
A Brief Guide to Adopting Your New Spouse's Children
This petition will include the pertinent information relating to the child including their date of birth, place of birth, and name; a statement of the relationship between the child and step parent including the length of the relationship and basis for adoption.
If the other parent of the child still maintains legal rights, then they will need to be served with the petition for adoption and will be given the opportunity to oppose or consent to the adoption of the child. If parental rights were terminated prior to the petition, or the parent previously consented to the adoption, then these documents will need to be included in the petition as well. However, if consent is not obtained, then you may need to seek termination of parental rights and present evidence as to why such measures should be taken and are in the child’s best interest.
What If They Refuse My Petition to Adopt?
When the other parent refuses your petition to adopt, it can become a legally complex situation, as parental rights are protected by the Constitution and can be difficult to overcome. However, in some cases where a parent has abandoned or deserted the child with no contact or financial support given for a significant period of time, the court may find it within the child’s best interest to approve of the adoption without the consent of the second parent.
The main focus of any adoption proceeding is the child’s best interest. Therefore, it should be evident in your petition and the evidence that you present to the court that this too is the goal and purpose behind your adoption proceedings.
If the child is adopted by the step parent, the legal status of the second parent will be terminated, meaning child support obligations, timesharing, and any responsibility or decision making related to the child will be removed. Instead, the step parent will accept full and equal responsibility for the child just as their spouse.
Step parent adoption is one of the most common forms of adoption and is unique in that it can solidify the already existing emotional bond between a step parent and child. Therefore, ensure you approach this legal process fully educated and protected by employing the assistance of a knowledgeable Pensacola Adoption Attorney.
Speaking to an attorney at our Pensacola office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 850-999-5857 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.