Adopting stepchildren is an important step in converting a blended family into a cohesive unit where both parents carry equal weight with the children, but it involves much more than following the appropriate court procedures.
Each Minnesota stepparent adoption lawyer at our firm firmly believes that all family members need to go through significant emotional preparation so they already live and act like a typical family before they make the adoption official in court.
Certain Issues Need to be Resolved Before Adoption
Stepparents generally do not adopt their spouses’ children simply to create a legal relationship. The act of forming a true parent-child relationship takes some time, but it is the source of the rewards created by adoption. Those rewards come from taking a step-by-step approach that works through issues such as the following:
- The child’s attitudes and acceptance: Many children initially accept a new parent with a degree of reluctance and even act out in unusual ways. Even when they accept a new spouse in the home, they may take advice and direction only from the biological parent. Building trust is essential to make a true connection. Whether it requires careful conversation with the children or professional therapeutic intervention, this bond is essential for a true parent-child relationship.
- The existence of another biological parent: Under MN law, no child can have three legal parents, so a second living biological parent must waive all rights to his or her children before they can be adopted by a stepparent. While waiving parental rights severs the legal relationship, however, it does not eliminate a child’s feelings about that parent. Whether negative or positive feelings remain, they must be addressed before a child can truly connect with a stepparent.
- Relationships between all children: Blended families often involve the children of both parents suddenly living in one home. It is probably most common for children to resist sharing their biological parents’ affections with new children in the home, but the signs of disunity can sometimes be subtle. Both parents need to look for these signals and address them before the family becomes legally blended.
- The level of trust between both parents: Even spouses with the best of intentions can retain the need to maintain control over their biological children. It is vital that both individuals learn to parent as a cohesive unit to avoid unnecessary conflict and continue to build a strong marriage.
Families Need Two Types of Help Prior to Adoption
Even if the decision to adopt seems like a logical choice, it is recommended that all parties of stepparent adoption strongly consider some family counseling. Whenever possible, it can help to turn to professionals who are recommended by close family and friends to help ensure a good fit between counselors and families.
Of course, it is also essential that parents address all long-term legal ramifications, such as custody issues in the event of divorce or even inheritance rights. For a full range of support — from counselor referrals to related legal issues, call us at (763) 783-5146 or use our convenient contact form.