If you and your spouse have one of Ohio’s many blended families, you may be thinking about adopting your spouse’s children. This not only is a loving decision, but also a practical one. It solves any problems you may have regarding the legal status of your de facto children and also gives you access to their medical and school records.

The State of Ohio makes it fairly simple and straightforward for you to adopt your stepchildren. As long as you are married to one of the child’s biological parents, it makes no difference whether you and your spouse are a heterosexual couple or a same-sex one.

The stepparent adoption process

The first thing you, as the prospective adoptive parent, must do is file an adoption petition in the court of common pleas for the county where you and the child reside or where the child’s other biological parent resides. Each county has specific requirements, but the petition must include pertinent information about both you and the child.

You must serve the petition on the child’s other biological parent and give him or her notice of when and where the adoption hearing will take place. Under normal circumstances, the biological parent must consent to the adoption. The judge, however, can make an exception to this rule if you present clear and convincing evidence that the biological parent failed to communicate with the child and/or support him or her for at least a year before you filed your stepparent adoption petition. Consent likewise is not required if a juvenile court already has terminated parental rights.

Once the adoption becomes finalized, you and the child have all the legal rights, privileges and obligations with regard to each other the same as if (s)he had been born to you. Stepparent adoption is permanent, as are all adoptions. The child is your son or daughter for the rest of your respective lives.

While stepparent adoption in Ohio is fairly simple and inexpensive, you would do well to speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney before proceeding with the legalities. (S)he can answer all your questions, draft your stepparent adoption petition, and guide you through every step of the procedure.