Can I adopt my stepchild with my spouse's permission?

If you are the stepparent of your spouse's child from a previous marriage or relationship, at some point you may want to pursue adopting the child as your own. Do you have that right if your spouse gives consent?

The answer, as with many legal queries, is "it depends," and the person on whom it depends is typically the child's other birth parent.

Stepparent adoptions require consent from the birth parent unless their parental rights have already been terminated. That's a major step because it means that the parent is abdicating all parental control over their child. They will no longer share custody, have visitation or pay child support. The parent may understandably loathe to do that even if they have previously not been very involved in their children's lives.

Still, you may have options even when consent isn't granted. You and your spouse could petition the court to terminate the other birth parent's rights, thus paving the way for you to adopt the child. Below are the conditions where parental rights may be terminated:

  • Abandonment by the birth parent. You will need to prove the parent neither supported nor saw the child within the past year.
  • The parent is unfit. If the parent is in jail, addicted to alcohol or drugs, suffering from a mental illness that prevents them from carrying out their parenting duties or has abused or neglected their children, they may be deemed unfit.
  • The legal parent is not the biological parent. This situation may arise when a woman conceives a child with a man who is not her husband.

No two stepparent adoption scenarios are exactly the same, which is why it is vital that you thoroughly explain the circumstances to your Orange County family law attorney.

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