If you are a stepparent looking to legally adopt your stepchild, an adoption attorney in Clearwater can assist you with the details that the process requires. The following is a step-by-step guide that will help walk you through the process.
1. Determine Your Eligibility to Adopt
Generally, in the State of Florida, as long as you are an adult without a criminal record, you are eligible to adopt. Legally, you cannot be discriminated against based on your race, age, marital status, or disability unless it is determined that it will render you incapable of serving as an effective parent. When it comes to adopting a stepchild, as long as you are married to the biological parent of the child, then you are eligible to adopt. If you are uncertain about your eligibility, an adoption attorney in Clearwater can sit down and discuss your unique situation.
2. Get Consent
This step is often where most adoptive stepparents and their families run into problems. The child’s other biological parent must consent to the termination of his or her parental rights so that you may adopt the child. The law sets out many specific requirements with regard to the taking of a Consent to an adoption. If the consent is not done correctly, the Court will not accept it. You will be required to go back to the biological parent and have his or her consent taken correctly. There is no guarantee that the biological parent will still be willing to execute a Consent. An adoption attorney can ensure that the correct steps are followed the first time so that your stepparent adoption can proceed.
While many biological parents are willing to forfeit their rights as parents to their child, others are resistant and withhold consent. An adoption attorney can inform the biological parent that the responsibility to pay child support ends upon termination of parental rights, and that is often sufficient to convince the hesitant parent to consent to the adoption. If the biological parent is unwilling to consent, a lawyer can evaluate the facts surrounding your family to determine if there are grounds for the Court to terminate the biological parent’s rights without consent.
3. Inform the Court of Your Intent to Adopt
The procedural requirements for the paperwork that is filed with the Court to start your case are just as rigid as those for the taking of a Consent. If all steps are not followed accurately, then the Court will not set the matter for hearing to finalize your adoption. There can be a significant delay in the process. An adoption attorney will make sure that all documents filed with the Court are completed accurately and submitted in a timely manner.
Stepparent adoptions are handled by the Family Court and usually require only one hearing to finalize the adoption. If you are asking the Court to waive a biological parent’s consent, you may wish to split the process into two parts and have a hearing solely to terminate the biological parent’s parental rights. An adoption attorney can advise you as to best proceed in such an instance.
4. Attend the Hearing
At a Final Hearing for a Stepparent Adoption, you, your spouse, and your stepchild must be present. The Judge will review your Petition and determine if the adoption is in the child’s best interest. If the Judge finds that it is in the child’s best interest and you have met all of the procedural requirements, then the Court will issue an order that approves and finalizes the process. If you have requested a name change, it will be enacted at this point. From then on, your new relationship is established. You will no longer be considered the child’s stepparent. You will be the child’s parent, with full parental rights and responsibilities. Your adoption attorney will submit paperwork so that a new birth certificate will be issued for the child listing your name as the child’s parent.
To Get Started, Contact an Adoption Attorney at Julie Beth Jouben, P.A.
If you or your spouse is a stepparent looking to adopt a stepchild, make sure you have the help of a qualified adoption attorney in Clearwater. You do not want to risk delaying the process or wasting time due to a simple procedural error that could have been prevented.
When you are ready to take a step and solidify the relationship between stepparent and stepchild, contact the law firm of Julie Beth Jouben, P.A. We have helped Clearwater residents with their family law needs for years, and a helping hand is only a phone call away. Contact us at 727-449-9929 to discuss your situation.