Can my spouse adopt my child without the consent of the biological parent?
Your ex is not involved in your child’s life and your current spouse has stepped into a parental role. In the meantime, the stepparent does not have the legal right to make decisions for your child or take care of your child if something happens to you. The scenario is not uncommon. Stepparent adoptions allow the stepparent to have all of the rights and responsibilities of a biological parent.
When adopting a child in Florida, both biological parents must give their consent to the adoption. When your spouse adopts your child, you retain your parental rights after the adoption is finalized. The other biological parent’s rights will be terminated. Sometimes the estranged biological parent is fine with giving up their rights because they recognize that it is what is best for the child. Other times, the biological parent agrees because the adoption will stop their obligation to pay child support. Whatever the reasoning, the biological parent will sign a formal Consent to the adoption with the required statutory language and you will be able to move forward with your step-parent adoption plans.
Is Adoption Without Parental Consent Possible?
What happens if your ex, the child’s other biological parent, does not participate in your child’s life and refuses to sign a Consent to the stepparent adoption?
Sometimes the biological parent acknowledges that they have not been around and vows to do more once you have begun the process for a stepparent adoption. Perhaps the other parent feels that what they have been doing for the child has been good enough and no change is needed. If your break-up was not amicable, the other biological parent may blame you for all of his or her parental shortcomings. In those situations, you will need to ask the Court to waive the other biological parent’s consent to the stepparent adoption.
Abandonment as Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights
In some instances, when a biological parent has not been involved in a child’s life and refuses to sign a Consent for adoption, we can ask the Court to waive that parent’s consent-based upon abandonment. Florida statutes define abandonment as “a situation in which the parent or person having legal custody of a child while being able, makes little or no provision for the child’s support or makes little or no effort to communicate with the child, which situation is sufficient to evince an intent to reject parental responsibilities.” The Court will consider many factors, including whether the biological parent’s actions or lack of involvement, demonstrated a willful disregard of the safety or welfare of the child. The Court will evaluate whether the biological parent has failed to provide for financial support or pay for medical treatment even though they were able to pay. If the biological parent has paid financial support or medical expenses, the Court will determine if the amount paid was appropriate considering the child’s needs and the parent’s ability to pay.
What if the biological parent’s involvement with the child has been minimal? Sometimes support is paid, but not very often. The biological parent might call once or twice during the year or Facetime sporadically. The Court will evaluate the evidence and, if the biological parent’s efforts at financial support or communication with the child are only marginal and do not show a settled purpose to assume all parental duties, the Court can declare the child to be abandoned. If a parent is found to have abandoned a child, their parental rights can be terminated and their consent is unnecessary for a stepparent adoption.
Florida takes the parental rights of biological parents very seriously. The Court will not terminate parental rights without clear and convincing evidence that the parent has abandoned that child.
Contact Julie Beth Jouben P.A. to Learn More About Stepparent Adoption Without Parental Consent
If you are considering a stepparent adoption and you believe that your ex has abandoned your child, you should consult an adoption attorney. Contact Julie Beth Jouben P.A. to schedule a free legal consultation for family law and adoption questions.