Each Minnesota stepparent adoption attorney at our firm sees a number of different types of relative adoption cases, but perhaps the most common type is adoption by a stepparent. Particularly from an emotional point of view, this makes sense. It brings a full level of unity to families by removing perceived relationship barriers between stepparents and the children born to their spouses. Of course, when second marriages create families with children from both spouses, these adoptions can also equalize the relationship between all of the children.
Still, when two biological parents are alive, Minnesota law prevents a third parent from adopting the children. However, it also provides potential legal avenues to make stepparent adoptions possible.
Termination of Biological Parental Rights is a Necessary Step Toward Stepparent Adoption
Since only two legal parents can exist for any child, one parent needs to terminate parental rights to make way for adoption by a stepparent. Still, when parents divorce, both of them generally want to maintain close relationships with their children. In addition to contributing financial support when appropriate, they spend meaningful time with their children on a regular basis. Minnesota law recognizes these relationships as vital to the children’s best interests. The introduction of a stepparent into the mix cannot change it.
This means that a stepparent cannot adopt a spouse’s children unless the there is a termination of parental rights for the corresponding parent. While a parent might have reason to voluntarily agree to terminate parental rights, it is probably more likely that reasons might exist to justify involuntary termination. The courts generally agree to order involuntary termination based on the best interests of the children under circumstances such as the following:
- The parent abandoned the child.
- The parent consistently fails to meet the support and other obligations set forth in a court-ordered parenting plan without good reason.
- The parent displays a lack of fitness in the parental relationship showing the inability to care appropriately for the physical, mental or emotional needs of the children.
- The court has ordered out-of-home placement of the children for 12 out of the last 22 months, and the conditions that required that placement have not been corrected, even after the social service agency made attempts toward rehabilitation.
Predicting Involuntary Termination Results is Challenging
None of these issues is set in stone. Whenever possible, the courts try to preserve the biological parental relationship — but only when they view the relationship as meeting the best interests of the children. In fact, natural parents and stepparents ultimately share this goal.
While adoption by a stepparent can seem like the best thing to unite the new family, obtaining a termination of parental rights often poses challenges, even when the biological parent could potentially cause harm to the children. Our Minnesota adoption attorneys understand how the courts make these decisions. We recommend pursuing a termination only when detailed information about a child’s history with the biological parent shows a clear need to sever the relationship. Then we develop compelling evidence to present in court.
To get the advice and support needed in these highly sensitive situations, call us at (763) 783-5146 or use our convenient contact form.