When you married your spouse, you understood the complication of being a stepparent to your spouse's child from another relationship. Being a stepparent is a delicate balance, and sometimes it is difficult to know your place.
However, at some point in your relationship with your stepchild, you realized you wanted to be more than just a stepparent. You may have found yourself wishing you had been with the child since his or her birth and hoping you could grow to be a vital part of the child's life. If this is your situation, you may have many questions about your ability to adopt your stepchild.
Adopting a stepchild in Wisconsin can be one of the most fulfilling things you can do. It shows your stepchild the level of your commitment and assures him or her of your constant presence. Adoption also provides you with legal rights that a stepparent does not have. The laws for stepparent adoption vary from state to state, so having legal assistance from the beginning of the process is always prudent. In general, the stipulations for adopting a stepchild are similar across the country, for example:
- You must be married to the child's parent.
- In some states, a child over a certain age must agree to the adoption.
- In some situations, the state may conduct a home visit.
- You must obtain consent from the biological parent.
Gaining consent may be easy if the parent has little connection with the child or is eager to be relieved of child support obligations. However, it is not typical for a parent to voluntarily relinquish parental rights. If the biological parent resists, the court may consider terminating parental rights under certain circumstances, such as when the parent has not contacted the child consistently or where there is abuse. Without such factors in place, the adoption may be much more difficult.
The path to adoption
Once you have obtained consent, the rest of the steps are fairly straightforward. Like any other legal transaction, there are forms to complete and deadlines to meet. The guidance of an attorney who is familiar with the laws of the state will be able to direct you to the most appropriate forms and assist you in completing and submitting them. Once you have taken this step, you will receive a notification of your court date.
At the hearing, the judge will question you and perhaps speak to the child. Even if everything goes well, you will not have a decision that same day, but the court will set a date for a finalization hearing. At that hearing, you will receive the adoption certificates, and you may apply to have your child's birth certificate amended.
You can see that the process is uncomplicated on paper, but when dealing with the delicate issues of stepparent adoption, you would be wise to have legal guidance throughout the process.