Jacksonville Stepparent Adoption Attorney
What happens when a divorced ex-spouse remarries and their new spouse wishes to adopt his or her stepchild?
Adoption can occur in a number of ways apart from the typical situation of parents adopting a child from a shelter. The state of Florida allows stepparents to adopt their stepchildren in situations in which the biological parent has officially terminated the relationship between parents and children, or if the biological parent gives consent to the adoption, or if the biological parent no longer lives. If you are considering a stepparent adoption, it is important to receive the advice of a lawyer with experience in family law.
A stepparent adoption may involve the termination of the rights of the biological father. Once this happens and the stepparent adopts the child, the stepparent has all the rights and responsibilities over the child as a biological parent, and the biological parent who lost those rights no longer has a legal relationship with the child. Once the adoption of the stepparent has been completed, it can not be revoked except in very rare circumstances. This adoption does not end if the stepparent and the biological parent divorce. As such, stepparent adoptions are something that should be considered very carefully and should not be entered into without the consent of all parties involved, especially the children. To adopt a child through a stepparent adoption, you must be legally married or in a domestic partnership with the biological parent. In addition, a child over 12 years of age must consent to the adoption.
The first step in a stepparent adoption is to see whether the stepparent is eligible to adopt under Florida law. As long as the person can be an effective parent and is married to the legal parent of the child, the person should be able to legally adopt.
The second step is for the stepparent, together with the spouse, to file a Joint Petition for Stepparent Adoption with the circuit court for the county in which he or she lives.
The petitioners are the stepparent and the spouse of the stepparent. The petition for stepparent adoption must include certain information, such as:
- The child’s date of birth and his/her place of birth
- The name the child will be given if the child’s name is being changed
- Statement of how long the stepparent has lived with the child
- Reasons why the stepparent wants to adopt the child
The absent parent is then served with the Petition and is given the opportunity within a certain timeframe in which to oppose the adoption. If the absent parent does not object to the adoption or if the absent parent has consented in writing, then a hearing will take place where the court will finalize the adoption. This will give the child a new birth certificate showing the child’s new name and parents.
If the absent parent does not consent to the adoption or cannot be found, the best option is to file with the court to terminate the parental rights of the absent parent. Under Florida Statute §63.064, termination of parental rights of the absent parent is generally allowed if that parent has either:
- Deserted the child without means of identification or has abandoned the child and/or
- Has been declared incompetent and restoration of competency is medically improbable.
If the birth father or mother cannot be found to obtain their consent, then Florida law lists several steps that you must take to try and locate the birth parent before proceeding with the adoption.
Consent is generally not necessary if the parent’s rights were terminated in another proceeding. This can happen if:
(1) the parent has executed a surrender document witnessed by two witnesses;
(2) the parent has abandoned the child;
(3) the parent has engaged in behavior that endangers the life, safety, well-being or health of the child;
(4) the parent is incarcerated for a certain period of time;
(5) a child has been an adjudicated dependent and the parent has not complied with the case plan filed with the court; or
(6) the parent has engaged in “egregious conduct” that threatened the health and well-being of the child or a sibling of the child.
Finally, if the parent is declared to be incompetent, and there is little chance he or she will become competent, then consent is not necessary (such as when the parent is in a coma, for example, and there is little likelihood the parent will emerge from the coma).
Same Sex Step Parent Adoption
With the recent legalization of gay marriage throughout Florida in January 2015, stepparent adoption is now available to gay and lesbian couples to adopt the child of their same-sex spouse.
Free Consultation! Call Today 904-990-3066
If you are considering a stepparent adoption, do not hesitate to contact Attorney Leanne Pérez. Adoption is not something you should rush to do, and it is important that you and all parties involved have a thorough knowledge of the law. Attorney Leanne Perez can help draft all the necessary documentation for the adoption and can explain to you all the rights and responsibilities you will have after the adoption. Contact her Jacksonville office today at (904) 990-3066 for a free initial consultation.