Stepparent Adoption

Learn the laws and process of adopting a stepchild.

Can You Adopt Your Stepchild?

The most common form of adoption is adoption of children by stepparents whereby the adopting stepparent is willing to assume financial and legal responsibility for his/her spouse's child or children and to release their noncustodial parent of parental responsibilities, including child support.

State laws

Most states have a streamlined adoption process for adoptions by stepparents whereby the judge hearing the adoption petition has the ability to dispense with the requirement in state adoption laws for an adoption home study. Some states, however, will not approve a stepparent adoption unless the custodial parent has been married to the stepparent for one year or longer.

Required consent

When a stepparent wishes to adopt a stepchild, the child's parents (the stepparent's spouse and the noncustodial or absent parent) are usually both required to consent to that adoption. In consenting to an adoption, the noncustodial parent relinquishes all parental rights and responsibilities, including child support. If the noncustodial parent objects to the proposed adoption and refuses to consent to it, state laws may prevent the adoption from proceeding.

Some states specify in state adoption laws, special circumstances under which the noncustodial parent's consent is not required. Other states have made special provisions in their adoption laws to allow stepparent adoptions to occur, even over the objections of the noncustodial parent in cases where the noncustodial parent has failed to maintain communication with the child for a specified period of time.

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