We are often asked, “How can I adopt my stepchild?”

Making the choice to adopt a stepchild should not be made without thought and understanding. You are choosing to make the child you own, assuming complete financial and legal responsibility. The non-custodial parent is then released from all parenting responsibilities. It is recommended that you not only consult with an attorney, but any counselors who can guide you in your decision making.

The process of adopting a stepchild is different than adopting a non-familial child:

• Home study IS NOT required to determine if this is indeed the proper placement

• Counseling of both parents IS NOT required

• Pre-adoption education IS NOT required

• REQUIRED that the adoptive parents is legally married to the child’s birth parent or legal parent for at least a year AND the child has resided with them for at least six months.

• REQUIRED for the non-custodial birth parent to give written consent of the adoption; in other words, “allowing” the child to be adopted.

There are circumstances in the state of Arizona when the father is NOT required to give up his parental rights in order for a child to be adopted. Please see a family law attorney to see if this applies to your situation.

What are the rights of the non-custodial birth parent? They are the same as the birth parent when it comes to the process for giving a child up for adoption. They must be legally notified and have opportunity to respond. If this process doesn’t happen, the birth parent can contest the adoption at a later date. As always, it is important to consult with a family law attorney on matters such as this.

The team at Stuart and Blackwell is available to help you navigate the legalities of adopting your stepchild as well as provide additional resources to you and your family as you make this decision. For additional information about adopting a stepchild and other family law matters, please contact us today.