Charlotte Stepparent Adoption Attorneys

According to recent data, 7% of children in the United States live in a household with at least one stepparent (Census report). And in many of these cases, the families have resided together for extended periods of time prior to marriage. Stepparents become an integral part of a child’s life, and many families wish to take steps to formalize the stepparent’s status as a parent through stepparent adoption.

What is the legal impact of a stepparent adoption?

Once a stepparent adoption has been completed, the spouse of the child’s parent becomes a legal parent with all of the rights and responsibilities that come along with that. The child and the adoptive parent share inheritance rights, and the adoptive parent can seek custody or visitation in the event of a subsequent separation or divorce. This means that the adoptive parent also becomes obligated to financially support the child and can be required to provide child support in the event of a subsequent separation or divorce. The child’s name can be changed as a part of this adoption as well.

As a part of stepparent adoption, the rights of parent who is not the spouse of the adoptive parent are terminated – the parent whose rights are terminated no longer has any obligation to financially support the child (past due, previously ordered, child support can still be collected, however).

It should be noted that biological grandparents may still obtain/retain visitation rights with a child adopted by a stepparent if a substantial relationship exists between the grandparent and the child and it is in the best interests of the child.

What are the requirements for stepparent adoption?

In many cases, stepparent adoption can be a fairly simple process, provided that the requirements have been met. A court appearance is not normally required.

The prospective adoptive parent must have been married to the biological parent for at least six months prior to filing the petition for adoption. This will not include any period of cohabitation prior to marriage. Generally, both of the child’s biological parents must consent to the adoption, although the consent requirement can be waived in certain circumstances. If the child is 12 years of age or older, the child must also consent to the adoption. After filing the petition for adoption, the prospective adoptive parent will need to arrange for a home study by a licensed home study provider to ensure that the adoption is in the best interests of the child; this requirement can be waived if the stepparent has been married to the child’s biological parent for more than two years. Documentation requirements can vary somewhat from county to county, but generally the adoptive parent will need a certified copy of the marriage certificate and the child’s birth certificate. A background check for the prospective adoptive parent is usually required (some counties require a report from the State, others from the FBI), and some counties require character affidavits.

If you’re considering a stepparent adoption in North Carolina, contact our firm today for more information.

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