Can stepparents adopt their stepchildren?

by | Apr 21, 2017 | adoption, Firm News

According to data provided by Smart Stepfamilies, 40 percent of married couples in the United States are step-couples, meaning at least one partner has a child or children from a previous marriage or relationship. Naturally, over time, stepparents form a bond with their stepchildren, oftentimes considering themselves to be a parent despite the fact that the child may already have two natural parents.

It’s not uncommon in blended families for stepparents to contemplate making their perceived role as parent a legal reality. This can arise for a number of reasons, such as in cases where one natural parent is routinely absent or disengaged from the child. For those in Ohio considering this point, the following question may be on your mind:

Can stepparents adopt their stepchildren?

In Ohio, the answer is yes.

As the Ohio State Bar Association explains, stepparent adoption begins with a Petition for Adoption, which is served to the stepchild’s other natural parent. In most cases, both natural parents must agree to the adoption before proceeding to the adoption hearing. At the adoption hearing, the court is presented with evidence that helps the judge decide whether or not to allow the stepparent adoption.

There are exceptions to this process, however, including cases where a natural parent fails to communicate with the child or provide financial support for at least a year. In such cases, consent from both natural parents is not needed.

While this might seem like a straightforward process, there are a number of complicated laws and procedures that must be followed precisely before stepparent adoption proceedings can continue. It’s because of this fact and the risk of jeopardizing the adoption that many stepparents turn to a qualified family law attorney for help with this process. Seeking legal help also ensures the protection of one’s parental rights, which can be difficult – if not impossible – to regain if a stepparent adoption is finalized.