Familial trends have greatly changed our concepts of what constitutes a “family” or even a “stepparent.” A stepparent is typically defined as a “person married to the legal parent of a child.” Stepparent adoption is where a person becomes the legal parent of their spouse’s child. It is often beneficial and relatively easy to adopt your spouse’s child.
Why Adopt a Stepchild?
While is not necessary to adopt a stepchild in order to have a healthy family, adopting your stepchild may provide significant emotional, legal, and financial benefits. When a stepparent adopts, the stepparent has full parental status and is no longer considered a legal outsider or third party to the child.
From an emotional perspective, completing a stepparent adoption can often provide or enhance a feeling of permanency in a family. In the eyes of the law, the completed adoption makes the ties between the stepparent and child permanent. The name change that is accomplished with the formalized adoption is often recognized by the child as something of great value. In many cases, this is something the child has wanted for many years.
In addition, completing a stepparent adoption provides legal recognition of the status as a parent. This recognition can help in dealing with school, medical and everyday issues related to the child. The newly recognized adopting stepparent will have an equal right and responsibility to share in all future decisions regarding the child.
Following a stepparent adoption, the stepparent and stepchild are entitled to all mutual inheritance, insurance and public benefits. Similarly, the biological parent (who is no longer the legal parent) and the child will no longer inherit from one another. Finalizing a stepparent adoption will eliminate the obligation of the former parent to provide child support or any other court ordered benefits.
How Does the Process Work?
The stepparent adoption process is very similar to other adoptions, but is usually faster, simpler and less costly. The process starts with the preparation and filing of an adoption petition. Once the petition is filed, a judge is assigned to the case. In many counties, a decree of adoption can be immediately submitted for the judge’s consideration after the petition is filed. If a hearing is required, it will typically be held in the judge’s office.
In a typical adoption, a home study is required. A home study is an evaluation of the prospective adoption with a recommendation as to the granting of the adoption. The home study includes criminal background checks on the adopting individuals and members of their household. A home study is not usually required in a stepparent adoption.
In Arkansas, the legal parent of the minor being adopted must consent to the adoption; however, there are some circumstances in which it is not required. If a legal parent will not voluntarily consent to the stepparent adoption, additional action must be taken. If the child being adopted is over ten years of age, the child must also consent to the adoption, unless the court waives this requirement in the best interest of the child.
Once the judge approves the adoption and a decree is entered, the process is finalized. The name of the minor will be changed, if requested, and a new birth certificate may be obtained naming the stepparent as one of the legal parents of the child.
Let Us Help
You can take steps to adopt your stepchild today, and The Wilson Law Group can help. If you are interested in learning more about the process, please call 479-521-5820 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the details.