In blending your families, you have likely grown to love and care for your spouse’s child. Depending on the circumstances, you may even consider taking on the legal responsibilities of a parent for him or her.
If you want to adopt your stepchild, you will find it helpful to understand your obligations and how you can expect the process to progress.
The handling of parental rights
According to the New Jersey Courts, only two people can have parental rights for a child. As such, you must submit a judicial surrender order, a termination of parental rights judgment, the death certificate for your stepchild’s other parent or a notice of surrender of parental rights with your petition to adopt.
The Background check
An approved agency will conduct a background check on you. Among other details, this will include a review of your criminal history record and any child abuse reports. The agency will base its recommendation regarding whether the adoption should proceed on whether this check identifies any patterns of arrests or domestic violence claims.
Before approving your adoption petition, the court will hold a preliminary and final hearing on the matter. During the preliminary hearing, a judge examines your petition, the background information and statements from any witnesses. If the court finds it in the best interest of the child to allow the adoption to go forward, it will schedule the final hearing.
Stepparent adoptions sometimes bring challenges that may threaten your family’s plans and goals. Therefore, if considering adopting your stepchild, you may consider working with a legal representative who will help you plan for and sidestep many of these potential issues.