In my practice, I have performed many adoptions. The most common form of adoption is a step-parent adoption. With divorces happening more frequently, people who get re-married often consider the possibility of a step-parent adoption. In order for a step-parent adoption to occur it is necessary for the mother or father of a child to remarry and for the step-parent to decide that they wish to become the legal parent of the child and to step into the shows of the biological parent.
It is necessary for the rights of the biological parent with whom the parent no longer resides to have their parental rights terminated or they agree to consent to the adoption of their biological child who now lives with the step-parent. A consent will simplify an adoption and will allow the petition for step-parent adoption to be scheduled as an uncontested matter and the step parent adoption can be scheduled very quickly for Final Hearing. This process should not take an extended period of time.
Many times the biological parent will not consent to the adoption because either he or she cannot be found and they have abandoned the minor child. These parents typically have not maintained a relationship with the child, but their consent cannot be obtained. In these instances a publication of the adoption is necessary and should be published in a local legal publication for four to six weeks, and a default submitted to the Court. This matter can then be scheduled as an uncontested matter for a Final hearing.
If neither of the first two scenarios apply, and the biological parent can be located, then it is necessary for the parent to be served with the Adoption Petition. If the parent fails to respond, then a default can be enforced and the matter scheduled for an uncontested Final hearing. If the biological parent does respond and refuses to consent to the Adoption, then this matter is contested and the Petitioner must establish why the parental rights of the biological parent should be terminated. This is the most difficult scenario, and should be discussed at the time of the commencement of the case.
Following the step-parent adoption, the step-parent becomes the legal parent of the minor child as if he or she was the biological parent. The minor child’s birth certificate is amended and the minor child may have their last name changed if the parties desire. The minor child as is treated the same as a biological child of the person adopting them and is entitled to all right such as the included in the probate court they have the right to inherit and can be included in benefits as if they were a biological child.