Step Parent Adoption

I enjoy doing step-parent adoptions because at the final hearing a child is gaining a parent that has worked hard and gone through many hoops to call that child their own.  It is a happy occasion.  The judges typically have you bring your child to the final hearing and will sometimes even allow you take the child’s picture with the judge.  On “adoption day” you can see lots of parents in the hallways with their children all dressed up waiting for their final hearing.  I have had judges tell me that it is one of the few joyful things that they get to do and they love presiding over the adoption cases.

I have done many step-parent adoptions in my career.  Sometimes the process is fairly quick and easy and sometimes it takes longer and is more difficult.

One major factor is the county that the case is in.  The case must be filed in the county in which the child lives.  Certain counties have a more crowded docket and it can take a few months to get a hearing.  Others are quicker.

The biggest factor affecting how long the case will take and how complicated the case will be, is whether the birth parent gives his/her consent to the adoption.  There are three usual scenarios:

  1. The other birth parent is deceased or signs a consent form.  This makes everything much easier as you would expect.
  2. The other birth parent’s location is unknown.  In this instance you have to make serious efforts to locate them.  If they cannot be located, you then have to get permission from the court to serve them the paperwork “by publication.” This isn’t too difficult to do but it definitely delays things for a few weeks or more.
  3. The other birth parent objects to the adoption.  If this is the case, you will have to demonstrate to the court why their parental rights should be terminated.  The most common reason is that they have not paid support for over a year and/or not made efforts to have contact with the child in over a year.  There are other reasons as well that can be used to terminate a parent’s rights.  If this is the case, the entire process is more complicated and the attorney’s fees will be more expensive.