Have you recently married someone with a child who you've become a stepparent to? When you start to feel close to this child and form a parental relationship with them, you may begin to wonder whether you can and should legally adopt them. This is a complicated question and a complicated process, but here are some things for you to consider at the very beginning of this journey.
One of the Child's Other Parents Will Probably Have to Give Up Their Legal Rights
In most states, a child can only have two legal parents. The only exceptions to this rule are in Louisiana, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, and Alaska. So — unless you live in one of those states — if your spouse and the child's other parent are both listed as his or her legal parents, you cannot simply have the court add you as the child's third legal parent. You will first have to request that the child's other parent — the one to whom you are not married — give up their legal rights as a parent. If the child has no contact with this parent and is not likely to have such contact in the future, this may not be a big deal. But if the child has an existing relationship with this other parent, asking them to give up their rights may cause trauma in that relationship and create tension between you and that parent.
You May Have to Undergo a Background Check
Becoming a legal parent of your stepchild is not as challenging as adopting a child you don't know — but it is still an adoption process. As such, the court will probably require that you undergo a background check prior to the proceedings. If you have a clean record, this should not worry you at all. However, if you have one or more felonies on your record, you may struggle to get the adoption approved. It's not impossible, but you will need a good lawyer to make the case that you've moved on since being convicted of that crime and to argue that there is proof you'll be a good parent regardless.
There May Be Marriage Time Requirements
In most states, you can't simply marry a person and adopt their child right away. Rather, there will be an amount of time you have to wait before you can even apply for the adoption. This time is usually measured from the day you were legally married, not from the day you first moved in with someone.
Your Adoption May Affect Inheritance
If you legally adopt this child, you can expect that they will become an heir to your assets upon your death. However, you will also be removing the possibility of them inheriting anything from the parent you are asking to give up their rights. If the child stands to make a significant inheritance from their other legal parent, this is something to consider before you make the adoption legal. You can make an agreement outside of the adoption to leave the child as the other parent's legal heir, but the other parent will have to agree to it — which is not usually easy to convince them of since you're also asking that they give up their rights.
Adopting your stepchild is a good way to ensure you have full parental rights and to emotionally cement the bond between you. However, it is not the right choice in every circumstance. Talk to a family attorney to learn more about the process and whether it's feasible for your life and circumstances.
After being involved in a serious auto accident with a drunk driver, I struggled heavily with getting the driver's insurance company to open a claim. When the insurance company started pushing back, I knew I needed to do something. I spent a lot of time digging through the laws surrounding auto accident claims so that I knew what my legal rights were. I even talked with an auto accident attorney. I created this site to teach others about what I learned, including my court experience. I hope it helps you to determine how you should proceed with your auto accident case.