Your role as a stepparent in a child's life is important. When your relationship with your stepchildren leaves room to grow, you may consider adoption to ensure you are able to provide and care for them like the parent they deserve. Stepparent adoptions are quite common, so there is plenty of information available to you as a hopeful parent.
The adoption process requires you to work with other parties to ensure that the best interests of children are met. The child's other legal parent must relinquish all parental rights. This can be the prickliest part of the adoption, as they can be disinclined to losing the ongoing connection and all legal rights regarding the child.
Know your state's adoption laws
Adoption laws vary state by state. It's important to know what your rights are as a stepparent in New Jersey.
Questions that you could explore are:
- Does the person adopting have to be a certain age or marital status?
- Must the adopted person live in the new home for an enforced period of time?
- Will the adoptee have to provide consent?
State laws are continually in flux, and it helps to know some of the more recent changes.
Getting legal help
An attorney would not only provide more up to date and thorough legal advice, but they could also:
- Help review and sign complex paperwork
- Provide notice to an absent or difficult to contact parent
- Attend court with you or on your behalf
Other things to know
Additionally, a thorough background check will be required of the stepparent applying, which includes medical records, criminal checks and personal references. A "home study" will also occur which involves interviews and a visit to the stepparent's residence to ensure the adopted person is moving to a habitable residence.
Why adopt in the first place?
There is a lot of paperwork, time and money involved, and for good reason; deciding to adopt is one of the most significant choices you will make in your life. It's vital that you keep an eye on the bigger picture. The long-term benefits for the adopted child can include:
- Becoming the true 'flesh and blood' of the adoptive parent. This includes inheritance.
- Having two legal parents.
- A new birth certificate.
- A new name - of course, this is optional.
It's often said that parenting can be hard. But being a stepparent can be harder, with all sorts of boundaries put up by the child and others in the family.
Overall, adoption should be a joyful time in a one's life as it unites the family. It can become stressful, but with foresight, you can be prepared to handle potential complications in the process.