Many stepparents adopt their stepchildren in Minnesota, but few people are aware of what goes into a successful adoption. Because the process is different in each county, it’s best to work with an attorney who understands the ins and outs of stepparent adoption in yours if you’re interested in completing the legal paperwork that removes the “step” from “parent” once and for all.
Stepparent Adoption: The Basics
In order for a stepparent to adopt his or her spouse’s child, the biological parent’s rights must be terminated. From there, the adoption process continues, much like any other adoption process would, with a petition to the court. Social services will conduct investigations and make their determinations, and finally, once that’s finished, you’ll have a final hearing in court. In most cases, it takes about 6 months to complete a stepparent adoption.
Termination of Parental Rights
There are two distinct ways that the courts can strip a biological parent of his or her parental rights: voluntarily or involuntarily.
A voluntary termination of parental rights involves the biological parent consenting to the adoption. If the biological parent does give his or her consent, there’s a two-week period during which he or she can revoke consent; it’s kind-of a “cooling-off” period.
The only way the court will accept a parent’s voluntary termination of rights is if there is someone waiting to adopt the child. Their main focus is to ensure that someone will be taking over legal responsibility.
Involuntary termination is another story. The person who wants to remove a biological parent’s rights must show the court that the parent is putting the child at risk or has abandoned the child. An involuntary termination of parental rights can be a very difficult thing to pursue, because there is, and always has been, a very strong presumption that parents are entitled to raise their own kids.
Petition for Stepparent Adoption
After a parent has relinquished rights or has had them involuntarily removed, the stepparent and the parent who still has legal rights to the child can file a Petition for Adoption with the court. This is the first actual step in the adoption process, and from there, social services will become involved.
Social Services Involvement
Social services will perform the same types of investigations that they would for other adoptions, which may include home-checks and criminal history evaluations. Every county is different, so if you’re not sure about something, talk to your lawyer; he or she will be able to give you case-specific guidance that relates to your county.
Finalizing Stepparent Adoption
The court administrator will schedule a final hearing before the judge. Both parties, as well as the child, have to appear. The court might ask the child if he or she wants the adoption to move forward (that really depends on how old the child is), and each party has to affirm the contents of the original petition. If the court sees no issues, the judge will issue an official Adoption Decree.
Schedule A Confidential Case Evaluation
Call us at (763) 783-5146 to schedule a confidential case evaluation. We’ll be happy to discuss your legal options with you and your spouse.