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Stepparent Adoption, How Involved is it?

When marriage occurs with children involved, there are many situations to consider. If the child’s other biological parent is not involved in the child’s life, one consideration may be that the stepparent chooses to adopt the child. In many instances, this can be an easier adoption process than others as the observation and reporting processes required in public adoptions are minimized.

Although this may be an easier form of adoption, the main challenge that most couples face is to receive consent from the other birth parent. If the other parent is deceased, then this is a non-issue. In all other cases, the birth parent will need to agree to terminate all rights. If rights have been terminated by the court system due to neglect to abuse, then a case can be made that it is in the child’s best interest to be adopted by the stepparent.

In all other cases, or if the birth parent does not provide consent, then rights can be terminated legally if a parent can prove that the other birth parent has abandoned the child, is unfit or is not in fact the biological parent.

Abandonment can be proven if there is proof that the other parent has not been involved in the child’s life or paid child support. If a parent is unfit to care for the child, a hearing will be held and the court will determine the parent’s ability to care for the child. If a biological parent is found to be unfit by the court, then consent is not needed and will make the stepparent adoption simpler.

In families where the biological or adoptive parent is the same sex as the stepparent, adoption is certainly a possibility and would follow State laws concerning marriage and adoption for same sex couples. In the State of Rhode Island, marriage and adoption are both legal for same sex couples so this would not present additional challenges for the adoption.  

Expanding a family is an exciting time. It is important to understand fully the specifics of your individual situation before embarking on the road to adoption. Consult a lawyer familiar with Rhode Island adoption and child custody laws to discuss your personal situation.