If you marry someone who has a child, you may consider legally adopting the child. In order to adopt your stepchild, you must: 1) terminate the parental rights of the other parent (not your spouse); 2) petition the court for adoption and file all necessary paperwork; 3) have social services conduct a background study and finger print check; and 4) attend the final court hearing.
Termination of Parental Rights
Termination of parental rights can be voluntary or involuntary. In a voluntary termination of parental rights, the biological parent consents to the adoption. One incentive for the other parent to consent to the adoption is that he or she will no longer be obligated to pay child support. If the other parent will not consent, you must demonstrate abandonment of the child by that parent to the court. Because this is much more costly and difficult, it is advisable to first attempt to obtain consent to termination of parental rights.
Petition for Adoption
After you obtain consent to the adoption or have demonstrated abandonment, you will file a petition for adoption with the Court and proposed order. The petition provides basic information to the court and affirms that the adoption is in the best interest of the child. The Court will look at the length of the marriage and the financial ability of you and the nonterminating parent to support the child.
You will also typically file a Motion to Waive Post-Placement Assessment and Affidavit in Support of Motion to Waive Post-Placement Assessment. A post-placement assessment involves a social service agency evaluating your home and living conditions. In addition, if you have not resided in Minnesota for one year, you will have to file a motion and affidavit to reduce the residency requirement to thirty days. Finally, you will submit a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate, the consent signed by the terminating parent (if voluntary), the consent signed by the child if they are age 14 or older, a list of the child’s personal property, and the results of the search of the Father’s Adoption Registry. You can find information about requesting a search of the Father’s Adoption Registry through the Minnesota Department of Health website.
Background Study and Fingerprint Check
In addition to terminating parental rights and filing a petition for adoption and other required paperwork with the Court, you must submit to a background study and fingerprint by social services. The background study and fingerprint check must be conducted on every adult in the adoptive home age 18 and older. Unlike the post-placement assessment, this requirement cannot be waived by the Court.
Final Court Hearing
After you have completed all of the above requirements, you will attend the final court hearing with your spouse and the child to be adopted. The Court will ask you questions about your petition and also may ask the child questions as well. As a family law practitioner, this is my favorite type of hearing because everyone is happy to be there.
Although stepparent adoption is relatively easy compared to other types of adoption, there are still many requirements that must be met. If you are considering a stepparent adoption, it is important to talk to an experienced attorney. To speak with a experiences stepparent adoption attorney, contact Tentinger Law Firm at 952-953-3330 or use our quick contact form.