FAQ - stepparent adoptions

"Frequently Asked Questions about Stepparent Adoptions"

Q: What is stepparent adoption?

     A: Stepparent adoption is when a stepparent legally adopts their spouse's child.  Once the adoption is complete, the stepparent is the LEGAL parent in the eyes of the law, and they have the same rights and responsibilities as the biological parent.

Q: Why would a stepparent want to adopt their spouse's child?

      A: A stepparent might want to adopt their spouse's child to make it easier to make decisions for the child, to give the child a sense of security and belonging, and to establish legal rights and responsibilities for the stepparent.  If you have not adopted your stepchild, you have NO legal rights over them; you are no different legally than a stranger off of the street.

Q:  How much does an uncontested stepparent adoption cost?

     A:  I charge a flat fee of $1,200 to $1,600 plus costs depending on what county the adoption is filed in.  If the stepparent is adoption multiple children, I usually charge 1/2 for each additional child.

Q:  Can we do any part of the case to save attorney's fees?

     A:  I can prepare the legal paperwork for you for a flat fee.  You can then take it from there and file the paperwork and contact the Court yourself to set and conduct the hearing.  I can also file everything for you and contact the court for you to set the hearing so that the only thing you are doing is the hearing.  I will provide the questions that need to be asked at the hearing so that you are fully prepared.

 Q: Do both biological parents need to give permission for stepparent adoption? 

     A: In most cases, yes. If the biological parent who is not the spouse of the stepparent is still involved in the child's life, they will need to give permission for the stepparent adoption to happen. 

 Q: What happens if the biological parent doesn't give permission for stepparent adoption? 

     A: If the biological parent doesn't give permission, the stepparent and their spouse will need to go to court to get the Court to waive the consent.  If the natural parent has abandoned the child, or "for a period of at least one (1) year has failed significantly without justifiable cause (i) to communicate with the child or (ii) to provide for the care and support of the child as required by law or judicial decree," the Court can waive that parent's consent.

Q: Is stepparent adoption a quick process? 

     A: Yes, if it is an uncontested adoption, the adoption can usually be done in 30-45 days.  If the biological parent refuses to consent, it is a contested case and take months if not years.  

Q: What happens after stepparent adoption is finalized? 

     A: After the adoption is finalized, the stepparent becomes the child's legal parent, and the biological parent who is not the spouse of the stepparent loses their legal rights and responsibilities to the child. 

Q:  How do we change the child's birth certificate after the adoption?

     A:  Get a birth certificate change form from the state where the child was born.  You'll need to provide that form and a certified copy of the adoption decree and a certified copy of the Report of Adoption form provided by the clerk.

 Q: Can the child's name be changed during stepparent adoption? 

     A: Yes, it's customary for the child's last name to be changed as part of the adoption.  You can also change first and middle names as part of the adoption if desired.  

Q: Is a home study required for a stepparent adoption?

     A.  No.  The Court usually waives the requirement of a home study when a stepparent is the Petitioner.

Q:  Does child support stop for the parent that consents to the adoption?

     A.  Yes.  Assume a stepfather wants to adopt his stepson and the biological father consents to the adoption.  If the biological father was ordered to pay child support, that support obligation ends once the adoption decree is final.  However, this only stops future child support.  Past due child support is still owed, and is not "written off" as a result of the adoption.

Are you ready to take the next step to become your stepchild's legal parent?  Schedule a free, no obligation consultation with Attorney Chuck Buchan by clicking the "set appointment" button below.