In this age of blended families, Florida law allows stepparents to legally adopt their partner’s children in a fairly simple procedure. In most cases, this type of adoption can be completed in four months to a year. If you think stepparent adoption might be right for your family, there are some things you may need to consider:
- Parental consent — The first step in the adoption process is obtaining the consent of the biological parent. If the parent still has regular contact with the child, they must give permission for the adoption. If the parent does not have contact, has abandoned the child or does not financially support the child, the court is likely to proceed with the adoption even without written consent. If the parent contests the adoption but does not see or support the child, the judge might take some time to gather more information before deciding on the adoption.
- Child’s consent — The child must also consent to the adoption. The judge might ask the child directly if the child is mature enough to answer. In some cases, the court might appoint a guardian ad litem, i.e., a neutral third party trained as a child’s advocate, to represent the needs and desires of the child to the court.
- After the hearing — Once the adoption is finalized, the adoptive stepparent has all the legal rights a biological parent has, including making medical decisions, picking up at school, camp or other protected environment, and in the case of divorce, the right to time-sharing and the obligation to financial support. If the parents so desire, they can apply for a new birth certificate on which the stepparent’s name appears as the parent.
Stepparent adoption is not right for every family, but it might be right for yours. Discuss your circumstances with a family lawyer to get their take on whether stepparent adoption could work for your family.