More than ever, blended families are becoming the norm in the U.S.
You have 60 percent of all marriages ending in divorce, 75 percent of all divorced persons eventually remarrying and 65 percent of those involving at least one child from a prior marriage.
This is a big part of the reason that stepparent adoption has become the most common type of adoption.
Our Birmingham stepparent adoption lawyers know that this will be a pivotal moment in all of your lives, even if you have been living together as a family for some time now. It means that the stepparent promises to assume both legal and financial responsibility for his or her spouse's child. It also requires that the noncustodial parent will relinquish all of his or her rights or responsibilities with regard to the child – including child support.
In some of these situations, the other legal parent is deceased. That will mean the process is a fairly straightforward one, particularly if the child is young and this is something desired by all parties involved.
Usually where we might see the most complications is a noncustodial parent who has a change of heart. They may initially agree to the decision (often with the understanding that their child support obligations will be relinquished) only to later fully grasp the gravity of the situation and suddenly do an about-face. Usually, it is not so much that the noncustodial parent intends to suddenly be an involved part of the child's life as he or she doesn't want to let go of that sense of power. And of course, it can be an incredibly emotional transition, even if the noncustodial parent realizes that the stepparent adoption is in the best interest of the child, emotionally and financially (particularly with regard to things like insurance, etc.).
These situations have to be handled with firm strength, but also with compassion and understanding. Our goal is for everyone to walk away from the process feeling confident in the fact that they have done the right thing.
The good news is that a stepparent adoption with the consent of the noncustodial birth parent is often much easier than a non-relative adoption. A lot of the procedures are the same, but you do get to skip over some of it. For example, a lot of times you won't have to go through the home study, the waiting period or the adoption hearing.
There are some situations in which noncustodial consent isn't offered, but the stepparent may still be awarded parental rights. If you can show that the parent has essentially abandoned the child for at least a year – no phone calls or visits, no child support payments, etc. – you could likely make a good case for adoption. Similar circumstances might exist if the noncustodial parent is in prison and is expected to be so throughout most of the child's youth. Along these same lines, you might be able to prove that a parent is unfit if he or she has a long history with drug or alcohol addiction or criminal history.
If you have questions on this process, we are here to help.
If you are contemplating a divorce in Birmingham, contact Birmingham Family Law Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.
Stepparent Adoption, Information Page, Birmingham Adoption Lawyer Steven Eversole