How to Adopt a Stepchild in Florida?
With the divorce rate in the United States at over 50%, blended families are becoming the norm. You may be living with your stepchild and have built a relationship over many months or years and now you are ready to adopt. There is more to this process than simply being willing.
The case begins with the filing a Joint Petition for Stepparent Adoption with the court. Your spouse must agree to the adoption for the petition to go forward. In the petition, you will have to provide your name, address, the child’s new name (if applicable), the reasons why you want to adopt the child, how long you have been in the child’s life and that you have been providing adequately for the material needs, mental and emotional well-being of the child and you will continue to do so. You will also have to attach certified copies of the child’s birth certificate and your marriage certificate to the petition.
Uncontested Stepparent Adoption
If the child’s other legal parent is consenting to the adoption, this makes the process less complicated. The consenting parent will simply sign a Consent and Waiver Form in the presence of two witnesses and a notary, to voluntarily relinquish their parental rights. You will attach this form to your petition and file it with the court. In certain situations, no consent is necessary. For example, if the child was born out of wedlock and the child’s biological father has not legally established paternity, then the case can go on without his input.
Contested Stepparent Adoption and Termination of Parental Rights
In some cases, the child’s other parent does not agree with the adoption and will oppose it. In this scenario, the case is more complex. Before the court can grant your petition for adoption, it has to first terminate the opposing parent’s parental rights. You will have to prove that the other parent has abused, abandoned or neglected the child and it is not in the child’s best interest for this parent to continue to be in the minor-child’s life.
Proving a case for termination of parental rights requires strong evidence and skillful litigation. Attorney Fletcher has successfully represented stepparents and their spouses in these types of situations. She will help you get the best outcome possible for your case, while minimizing the amount of conflict that it takes to get you there. As your legal representative, her goal is to take on any challenges during the adoption process and protect your child from any conflict surrounding the adoption.
How an Adoption Lawyer Can Help You?
At the Fletcher Law Office, we are standing by to hear your situation regarding your desire to adopt your stepchild. We will provide a confidential consultation for you and create a solid strategy to help you complete your family. Here is our phone number: 561-507-5772. We are ready to help.
Stepparent Adoption FAQs
Most individuals qualify. You are eligible to adopt your stepchild, in Florida if: (1) you are married to the child’s legal parent and; (2) you are physically capable of caring for the child. If you have a disability or medical condition that impairs your ability to understand or react to your surroundings, this will negatively impact your case and could prevent the adoption.
It depends. If the other parent consents to the adoption, the process is relatively straight forward. A final hearing can be set as soon as the Petition for Stepparent Adoption and supporting documents have been properly filed.
If the other parent is contesting the adoption, the process is more complicated. You will first need to terminate the other parent’s parental rights before the adoption can take place. This process can take months or even years.
A legal parent’s parental rights can be terminated if he/she has:
- neglected, deserted or abandoned the child;
- a history of child abuse or substance abuse; or
- been declared by the court to be legally incompetent and is unlikely to regain competency.
After a diligent search and inquiry, if you still cannot locate the child’s other parent, you may be able to proceed with the adoption case by serving him/her by publication. You will run an advertisement in the newspaper with a copy of the petition and summons at least once per week for 4 consecutive weeks. After the time lapses, you can proceed with the case.
If the other parent won’t consent, you will have to prove that he/she is unfit and termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the child. The judge will decide whether to grant your petition. If you are successful with the termination of parental rights case, your spouse can move forward with the adoption.
Yes. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court stuck down all state bans that prevented same-sex marriages. Same-sex married couples are now treated the same as heterosexual couples in stepparent adoption proceedings.
An adoption is a permanent commitment. Your financial responsibility to the adopted child continues even if you and your spouse are no longer together.