Stepfathers can develop extremely close relationships with their stepchildren. This can be especially true if the child’s biological father does not play a significant role in the child’s life. However, despite a close bond, stepparents do not have any legal parental rights over the child. If the stepfather’s marriage fails, he will have no rights to custody or visitation or to be a part of important decisions in the child’s life. This can be true even if they had a relationship for many years. For this reason, many stepfathers want to preserve their rights and their relationship with their stepchild by legally adopting the child as their own.
Under Arizona laws, stepparent adoption is a relatively simple process with fewer requirements than other types of adoption. However, complications can arise in a stepfather adoption case if the biological father objects to the adoption.
Need for Consent
A child cannot have two legal fathers with equal legal rights. Therefore, in order to complete a stepfather adoption, the child’s biological father will have to either consent to the adoption or you will have to seek a termination of his parental rights. A form with their consent will have to be filed with the court along with the stepfather’s petition to adopt. In some situations, fathers will be willing to consent because it means they will no longer have any child support obligations or because they understand the child is closely bonded with his/her stepfather.
However, consenting to the adoption also means the biological father is consenting to give up all parental rights to the child. Not surprisingly, many fathers do not want to do this, even if they have not had a strong relationship with their child. If a father is against the adoption, he can refuse to consent.
Seeking a Termination of Parental Rights
If you want to continue with the adoption, you will have to seek a termination of the biological father’s parental rights. You must have legal grounds for doing so. A common ground for terminating parental rights is abandonment and failing to properly provide support for the child. Other grounds for termination include felony convictions with long sentences, history of chronic substance abuse or mental illness, and similar reasons. Presenting your case to the court can be challenging and you want a highly experienced adoption lawyer representing you in this scenario. Specifically you should hire an attorney who has experience litigating termination cases.
Call an Arizona Adoption Lawyer to Discuss your Case
Stepparent adoption can be fairly straightforward–unless the biological parent refuses to consent. In such situations, it is critical to have an experienced Arizona adoption lawyer on your side. Even if there is consent, it is a good idea to have an attorney review your adoption case. Adoption is a permanent legal action that has many implications and you want to be sure you do it right. Call the law office of Stuart & Blackwell in Arizona at 480-420-2900 for a free initial consultation.