Step-parent adoption, in Minnesota, involves four key steps: (1) termination of parental rights; (2) a petition for adoption; (3) background checks by court services; and (4) a final hearing.
The first step in the process of step-parent adoption, a termination of parental rights, is the most challenging aspects of these cases. The very nature of a step-parent adoption presumes that a child’s biological parent (typically, but not necessarily, the father) has been denied the ongoing right to a parent/child relationship.
Termination of parental rights can take two forms: (1) voluntary; and (2) involuntary.
In a voluntary termination of parental rights, a biological parent signs a form that indicates a willingness to terminate their legal relationship with a child. The Court will only sever that relationship, however, if another individual is waiting to adopt the relevant child. If a parent is willing to execute the termination paperwork, the balance of the adoption process should run smoothly.
If a parent will not voluntarily relinquish their right to a child, the parent seeking to petition for a step-parent adoption can file a petition for an involuntary termination of parental rights. You should know, however, that the odds of successfully terminating on an involuntary basis are slim. The relevant statutes speak of abandonment, or other horrific conduct, sufficient to justify cutting all ties among a parent and child. In our experience, if a parent appears in response to a termination petition, the court is likely to find a lack of abandonment.
Following the termination piece, a petition for step-parent adoption is completed. The petition sets forth the basic facts of your case, and provides the Court with all of the information necessary to determine whether the adoption serves the best interests of the child.
Once the petition is filed with the Court, court services, or some other social service division, will conduct whatever background checks they determine appropriate. It is important to note that every county is different in terms of their underlying work, so it can be challenging to predict a precise date for completion of the process.
Step-parent adoptions, however, do not typically involve anywhere near the level of background work as, say, a traditional adoption. Obviously, the fact that a child’s own parent desires to establish a legal relationship among the child and their spouse speaks to the trustworthiness of the step-parent.
Once all of the background work is completed, the court will schedule a final hearing. The parties (not the parent whose rights have been terminated) and the child typically attend together, with counsel. Once all of the judge’s questions have been answered satisfactorily, the petition will be approved.