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Stepparent adoption has emotional, legal benefits

Not all families are made the same way. Some people are married to the other parent of their children. Others, of course, live in blended families, with stepchildren and half-siblings under one roof.

Many children have a closer, more reliable relationship with their stepmother or stepfather than with their noncustodial biological parent. Stepparents who love their stepchildren and have essentially replaced the absent biological parent may wish to formalize the relationship through adoption.

Stepparent adoptions are generally uncontested, and therefore a fairly straightforward process, compared with many other family law proceedings. However, as with any legal matter, errors and unexpected snags can happen.

For instance, the other birth parent typically must consent to the adoption. That biological parent is agreeing to have his or her parental rights to the child, which can be a difficult thing to agree to, even when the parent has little to no relationship with the child. On the other hand, giving up parental rights means the parent is no longer responsible for child support.

In cases where the parent does not consent, it may be possible to show the court that the parent has abandoned the child or is an unfit parent. These are reasons for the court to terminate parental rights over the parent’s objection.

Once the biological parent’s rights are terminated, the adoption may proceed. Many stepparents and their spouses find this to be a rewarding event that brings the family closer together. It also matters from a legal perspective, because it imbues the stepparent with legal rights and responsibilities toward the child.

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