Being a stepparent to a child can be very fulfilling, and 20 to 30 million Americans have taken on the role of being a stepparent to a child. Over the years, many stepparents become emotionally attached to their stepchild, and in some instances and circumstances, may wish to legally adopt their stepchild. Consent is an important factor when it comes down to adopting a stepchild. Depending on the child's age, the circumstances involved and your state's laws, the type of consent will differ. It's best to consult with a family law attorney to make sure everything is in order before proceeding.
Who Needs to Offer Consent?
If you want to adopt your stepchild, you must receive consent from both of the biological parents unless one of the parents has abandoned the child. If neither birth parent is available, then the responsibility will fall under another legal entity, such as a close relative of the child, any person who is given custody or a guardian ad litem. If this person is not you, it is your responsibility to request for custody before filing to adopt.
If the child is of an older age, he or she may be required to consent to the adoption before it can proceed. The age requirement will differ in each state. For example, children over the age of 14 in Alabama must consent to the adoption before it can proceed unless he or she has been deemed mentally incapable of making the decision. In Alaska, children over the age of 10 must give consent. A family law attorney will be most familiar with your state's law regarding whether or not the child in question must consent to the adoption for it to proceed.
What Does Consent Involve?
When a child gives you consent to be adopted, he or she must fully understand the circumstances involved. He or she must understand that it means providing you with custody over him or herself. This basically means that you will be responsible for representing him or her until he or she reaches the age of majority.
Once a guardian or a noncustodial parent gives consent to the adoption, he or she relinquishes all rights and responsibilities to the child. This includes the responsibility of paying child support. This means that the parent or guardian who gives consent will no longer need to be involved in the child's life.
On the other hand, if you have adopted a child, you are then consenting to be held responsible for his or her wellbeing. In short, you are then legally responsible for making important decisions, which include education, health care and religion. You are also legally responsible for financially supporting the child, which includes paying child support if necessary.
How Is Consent Established?
Each state will require for consent to be established in different ways. In some states, the child and the biological parents can give consent in the form of a written statement. In other states, the biological parents and the child may have to appear in court – particularly for the preliminary hearing – and also fill in and submit legal paperwork for consent to be established.
In some situations, establishing consent can be difficult. For example, one of the parents may have already abandoned the child for many years, and cannot be contacted. In other situations, it can be difficult to get a noncustodial parent to consent to the adoption despite the fact that he or she may not have been a part of the child's life for some time. In these situations, a family law attorney may be able to help simplify the process, and lay out some of the legal groundwork needed for the adoption to go through smoothly.
There are many factors involved with adopting a stepchild. Although the stepchild may already be a huge part of your life, adopting him or her will further establish their importance in your life. Going through with the adoption can make your relationship with your stepchild even stronger, and have an everlasting change on the dynamics of the relationship.