Your life changed forever when you married. Whether you had children of your own or experienced it for the first time with your spouse’s child, you understand now why people are willing to sacrifice so much for their children. While your family feels complete, you want to take your relationship to the next logical step.
If you have been considering adopting your stepchild, you likely have many questions. Missouri, like other states, has its own laws regarding stepchild adoption, so you would be wise to investigate your options before proceeding.
Gaining consent from the parent
In general, stepparent adoption is an easier process than other forms of adoption. In many cases, the court will exempt parents wanting to adopt a stepchild from the home study. However, the most difficult hurdle remains, and that is gaining consent from the biological parent. Family law courts are not eager to separate children from their biological parent, so there are some important factors to keep in mind when dealing with consent issues, for example:
- If a biological parent relinquishes parental rights, you may proceed with the adoption.
- You do not have to seek consent from a biological parent who has already lost parental rights through the courts.
- If the parent does not consent to the adoption, you may have other options.
- The court may grant provisions for the adoption to proceed despite objections if the biological parent has not maintained communication with the child for a certain period of time.
- Other factors may come under consideration, such as the biological parent’s history of violence, child abuse or substance abuse.
Once you have achieved consent or provisions from the court, you can begin in earnest to seek adoption of your stepchild.
The adoption process
After you have consent, the rest of the process is fairly straightforward. There are numerous forms to complete and submit, and you may benefit from the assistance of an attorney who is well-versed in Missouri adoption laws. Your attorney can also file the forms with the appropriate court. Then you begin the wait for your appointment with a judge.
During your hearing, the judge or magistrate will ask you questions to ascertain your fitness for adoption. The child may also answer questions, and your attorney can advise you on what to expect at this point in the process. If all goes well at your hearing, you may leave with a date for the finalization of the adoption.
This is a day to mark on your calendar because you will likely want to celebrate. You will receive a certificate of adoption, and you will have the opportunity to apply to have your child’s birth certificate amended to include your name.