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What to know about stepparent adoption

As a stepparent, you have the responsibility of caring for your stepchildren. If you live with these children, you may want to be more than a stepparent, particularly if your spouse’s ex is not involved in their lives.

Have you considered adopting your stepchildren? This is what you should know about stepparent adoptions.

Courts require a background check

Adoptions typically require a home study and inspections prior to approval, but the judge may waive or shorten these processes when the children already live with you. However, the courts will conduct a criminal background check on you.

You need consent

In most cases, you need both of your stepchildren’s consent if you plan to adopt them. You need to gain this consent in written form. A non-custodial parent voluntarily gives up his or her rights.

The courts do not require consent if a judge revoked the individual’s parental rights due to abandonment, abuse, unfitness or endangerment. Also, if the children are older than 10 years of age, a judge may require their consent prior to approving your stepparent adoption.

You need supporting documents

Not only do you have to fill out stepparent adoption forms with your state, but you also need to collect your marriage license and the children’s birth certificates. You may also gather letters of support from individuals who can attest to your character.

Beware potential problems

Your children may experience emotional trauma from losing their noncustodial parent. In addition, their grandparents and extended family on the noncustodial parent’s side may want to remain involved in the children’s lives. You may also need family counseling to help you all settle into your new roles.

Stepparent adoptions give you and your stepchildren legal and financial security, but you should understand the process completely before you begin.