At The Draper Law Firm, we love adoptions! One of the adoptions we often see involves a step-parent adopting the biological child of his or her spouse. There are a couple of questions I immediately ask when someone inquires about a step-parent adoption: (1) What is the status of the other biological parent? and (2) If that biological parent is alive and hasn’t had rights terminated already, will that parent voluntarily relinquish parental rights?
In order to proceed with a step-parent adoption, the biological parent who is not involved must either be deceased, have had his or her rights terminated, or have his or her rights terminated prior to the step-parent adoption. We generally do the termination and adoption in one proceeding, and they are often both handled in the same final hearing. The process is extremely easy if the biological parent will sign an affidavit voluntarily relinquishing parental rights. (This post will not go into the process to terminate if that does not happen.)
In addition to terminating the biological parent’s rights, the step-parent will need to complete a criminal background check. This is now generally done electronically, and the results come back quite quickly. The step-parent will also need to complete an adoption home study. The home study involves an added expense outside of attorney’s fees. For the home study, the step-parent, spouse and child will meet with the evaluator and have a home visit. They will also provide collateral references in support of the adoption.
Sometimes an attorney ad litem is appointed to represent the child in the case. The court has the discretion to waive the ad litem if the judge feels the child’s best interests are adequately protected by the parties. We have always requested that the court waive the requirement of an ad litem for the child in step-parent adoption cases, and that request has always been granted.
Once the background check and home study are complete, we prepare a final order and go finalize the adoption. The child comes to the final hearing, and the judge will always participate in taking pictures with the family to help celebrate the occasion.