While many people who get married are doing so for the first time and enter the marriage without any children, it’s also common for people to get married a second or third time, and to get married when they already have children from another partner. In some situations, the child’s new stepparent may want to adopt the child, providing them with legal parental rights. If you are a stepparent in Massachusetts who is interested in a stepparent adoption, our experienced family law attorney can help.
The Biological Parent Must First Agree to Terminate Their Rights
The first step in the stepparent adoption process, and by far the most complicated, is getting the biological parent to agree to terminate their parental rights; a stepparent adoption cannot proceed if the child’s biological mother or father maintains parental rights. In some cases, the biological parent may agree to terminate their rights if requested to do so through a voluntary surrender of parental rights, whereas in other cases, they may refuse. If the biological parent refuses to terminate their parental rights in order for the adoption to proceed, then the child’s other parent must file a petition with the court asking the court to terminate the other parent’s rights. The court will only agree to terminate a parent’s rights when the parent is deemed unfit to parent or has abandoned the child.
The Stepparent Adoption Process
Once a biological parent’s rights are terminated, the stepparent adoption process is very straightforward. Unlike other adoptions, there are no home visits or home studies required before the adoption can proceed. Instead, the proper forms will simply need to be filed with the court, which will approve of the adoption assuming the stepparent is found fit to parent.
The Consequences of Stepparent Adoption
Once a stepparent adoption is completed, the child will no longer have any legal tie to their biological parent; instead, the stepparent will be their legal parent. This means that the stepparent-turned-legal parent can make decisions about the child, that the child can receive benefits on the new parent’s record, and that the parent will be responsible for paying child support, as well as have the right to seek custody of the child, if the parents divorce.
Why You Need an Attorney
While a stepparent adoption is a much simpler process than a standard adoption, it’s still wise to work with an attorney, whether the child’s biological parent consents to or opposes the adoption. An attorney can ensure that all of your court paperwork is filled out fully and correctly, represent you in a petition to remove the parental rights of the child’s biological parent, and can walk you through the process and what to expect.
Call Attorney Heather M. Ward Today
Adopting a stepchild is a very special experience for parent and child alike. At the Law Office of Heather M. Ward, our experienced stepparent adoption lawyer can help you during the process, providing advice and guidance wherever needed. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, call Attorney Heather M. Ward directly today at (617) 903-8955 or send our law firm a message online at your convenience.