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Three things to know about stepparent adoptions

| Jun 18, 2020 | Adoption |

Adoption is an important area of family law that many Alaskans may only associate with joining an adoptive child with a new set of parents. While domestic and international adoptions are a significant portion of the work that adoption attorneys carry, another important type of adoption happens fairly frequently and without as much attention. Stepparent adoption, or the process of an adult adopting the child or children of their spouse, also falls into this area of the law.

Stepparent adoption is a good way for families to legalize the important relationships that exist between stepparents and their spouses’ kids. However, finalizing a stepparent adoption can be challenging and may require significant work on the parts of the child’s parent, stepparent, and their attorney. This post offers several important facts for readers to consider about the stepparent adoption process, but this post should not be read as legal advice on the subject.

Consent from the Non-Custodial Parent is Required

Children have two biological parents who, under many circumstances, have rights to parent and raise them as their own. After a separation or divorce, however, a child may live exclusively with one of their parents. The non-custodial parent may have visitation rights with their child, or they may elect to have no further role in their child’s upbringing.

In order for a stepparent to adopt their stepchild, they must obtain the consent of the child’s non-custodial parent. A child cannot have three legal parents, and as such the rights of the non-custodial parent must be terminated in order for the stepparent to be granted legal authority over the child. Gaining consent in some cases can be difficult or impossible if the non-custodial parent is unwilling to give up their parental rights.

Consent from the child may be mandated by law

In Alaska, anyone over the age of 10 who is subject to adoption proceedings must consent to their adoption by another party. For example, if a stepparent wished to adopt the 12-year-old child of their spouse, the child would have to give their consent to the process for it to move forward. When a child is at least 10 and is unable to offer consent regarding their wishes to be adopted by a stepparent, the family law court hearing the matter may dispose of this requirement to protect the child’s best interests.

Same-sex couples can adopt their spouses’ children

Since the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex couples have enjoyed the right to marry in all 50 states. As such, the legality of all marriage between same-sex partners also allows for the legal adoption of stepchildren by same-sex stepparents. The same requirements apply for all individuals who want to adopt the children of their spouses.

Stepparent adoption is a rewarding experience for many families that wish to formalize the bonds that already exist between stepparents and their stepchildren. There are many requirements that must be met, and the process can take time to bring to completion. An attorney can be helpful for families that are ready to start this process.