When you marry someone with a child, you do not just make a commitment to your spouse; you also accept the child as part of your family.
In many families, the stepparent’s role is no different from that of a biological parent, which is why stepparents often choose to adopt their stepchildren. If the child is old enough, you must have his or her consent to proceed with the adoption.
When do you need the child’s consent?
In Alaska, children aged 10 or older must consent to the adoption. If the child is under 10 but capable of stating a preference, the court may take this into account, but the child’s consent is not a requirement.
These rules apply to all adoptions in Alaska, not just stepparent adoptions.
Why is consent important?
Adoption severs your stepchild’s legal relationship with his or her other biological parent. Very young children may not fully understand what this means, but older children can and should be part of the decision.
The child may have conflicting feelings about adoption. He or she might feel guilty about “replacing” a biological parent, for example. Helping the child work through these feelings is an important part of the adoption process.
What if the child can not consent?
Some children may not be capable of consenting to the adoption regardless of age. For example, a child with an intellectual disability may not have a sufficient understanding of the situation to give or deny consent. The court can waive the consent requirement if the adoption is in the child’s best interest.
Adoption is a major decision that can involve many emotions. When considering adoption, it is important to acknowledge your stepchild’s feelings and give him or her a voice in the process.