Step-parent adoption refers to the adoption of spouse’s child/(ren) from the previous marriage. Step-parent adoptions transfer the financial, legal and emotional responsibility of the child from the absent parent to the step-parent and it sometimes helps in creating a more cohesive family unit. The process also results in complete severance of all parental ties with the non-custodial parent of the child (who is obviously not the spouse of the step-parent).
The Process of Step-parent Adoption
The step-parent has to file a petition for adoption in the county, where he/she has been in residence for at least six months, prior to the date of filing. This is to establish North Carolina jurisdiction in the case. North Carolina adoptions normally require submitting a pre-placement assessment along with the adoption petition. However, in step-parent adoptions, if the step-parent has been married to the parent of the child for more than two years and the child has been residing in their home all this time, this requirement is waived by the court.
Consent in Step-parent Adoptions
The spouse of the step-parent who is the custodial parent must give a written consent for the adoption. It is also necessary to obtain the consent of the non-custodial parent. Obviously, this requirement is waived if the other parent is deceased.
In cases where such consent is not easily obtained, the step-parent adoption turns into a two step process, where the first step is to file for the termination of the other parent’s parental rights.
Grounds which justify termination of parental rights in step-parent adoptions include abandonment, physical or mental abuse, failure to support and failure to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child.
We at McIlveen Family Law Firm have significant experience in facilitating step-parent adoptions. We can help you with the legal formalities of filing the petition for adoption. We also offer services to file termination of parental right of the other parent in cases, where applicable.