Stepparent/Domestic Partner Adoptions.

The adoption process culminates in a parent-child relationship that is legally the same as the relationship between biological parents and their children. This includes the right to all benefits, adding the child to the adoptive parents’ health insurance plan, inheritance, support and visitation. When an adult adopts a stepchild, the spouse of the potential adoptive parent retains parental rights, but the rights of the other parent are deemed severed.  It is possible, however, to allow the other parent to retain his or her legal parental rights despite the stepparent adoption. This is a complex legal process that requires the assistance of an experienced and competent adoptive counsel.

It is important to note that once a stepparent adoption is finalized, with extremely limited exceptions, it cannot be undone. The adoptive parent will have all the legal rights and responsibilities of a biological parent. The biological parent the adoptive parent replaces has all ties severed and loses all rights and responsibilities. The adoptive parent will be the legal parent even if he or she divorces the biological parent to whom they are married.

If the stepchild being adopted is eighteen years old or older, the adoption can still be done, but it must be filed as an “adult adoption” instead.  A description of these kinds of adoptions appears below.

Legal Requirements for Stepparent Adoption

Although there are some basic rules regarding stepparent adoptions, almost every rule has an exception. If you do not believe you meet one of the legal requirements listed here, Attorney Hirabayashi can work with you to see if an exception applies. An overview of the requirements are:

  • The potential adoptive parent must be married to a legal parent or be in a domestic partner relationship with that parent and the partnership must be registered with the state.

  • The adoptive parent must be aged 18 or over and be at least 10 years older than the child he or she wishes to adopt

  • The spouse of the adopting parent, that is, the child’s birth parent, must consent to the adoption. Consent by the birth parent to the stepparent adoption by his or her spouse will not terminate that birth parent’s parental rights.

  • Children who are at least 12 years old must consent to the adoption.

Stepparent adoptions can be rewarding and meaningful family events. In many cases, the adoptive parent has been standing in the shoes of the parent and it is comforting to all parties to know the relationship is now a legal one.