Imagine this scenario: you’ve just gotten married and your spouse has a child from a previous relationship. After a time, your relationship with your stepchild grows closer and everyone is beginning to feel like family. You decide that you want to explore the option of adopting the child as your own. You may be wondering, how does the process of adopting a stepchild in Minnesota work?
Adopting a stepchild is a more straightforward process than adopting a child with no relationship to either spouse. Still, there is one hurdle that can delay or thwart the process – the consent of the other biological parent.
If you’re seeking to adopt as a stepparent in or around Minnetonka, Minnesota, or nearby in Plymouth, Maple Grove, or Eden Prairie – or anywhere in Hennepin County – contact The Law Office of Glen A. Norton PLLC. Family Law Attorney Glen Norton has helped hundreds of Minnesotans resolve issues of custody and adoption for more than three decades. Reach out to him to schedule a case consultation.
Adopting your stepchild can bring completeness and emotional fulfillment to the relationship you and your spouse share together.
From the time of adoption, you become the legal parent responsible for the child’s well-being and upbringing. You become a key component of that child’s growth into adulthood and their success in life. You and your spouse will have the freedom to impart your shared values, traditions, and beliefs with your child.
At the same time, if the other parent was providing child support payments or other forms of support, those will end on the date of adoption. You and your spouse will be financially responsible for the child’s needs going forward.
Adopting a stepchild in Minnesota is a four-part process, but the final three steps won’t ever occur if you can’t get past the first one: terminating the non-custodial parent’s rights. Minnesota law recognizes two ways of doing this: voluntarily and involuntarily.
The best course of action that clears the way for a happy resolution and new start in life is to get the voluntary consent of the other parent. The non-custodial parent may wish to end child support or just to move on in life with a new partner, and thus will give his or her consent of their own free will.
However, if the other parent does not agree to the adoption, then the adopting couple must prove in court that the non-custodial parent has abandoned the child or is otherwise unfit to be a parent. This can be a contentious and complex process that requires careful and knowledgeable guidance.
Courts work on the assumption that parents are entitled to raise their own children, so you will have to present strong evidence to sever the bond. You will definitely need the services of an experienced family law/adoption attorney to make the case for the involuntary cessation of a parent’s rights.
One other factor to consider: In Minnesota, if the child is 14 or older, he or she must also consent to the adoption.
Once the non-custodial parent’s rights have been terminated, three steps remain in the adoption process:
This must spell out the details of who is being adopted, who the parents are, and how long they’ve been married, along with an affirmation that the adoption serves the best interests of the child.
Once you’ve filed the petition, social services will conduct a background check. Depending on the county where the adoption is taking place, this could be as simple as a criminal background check or as complex as a non-stepparent adoption involving a thorough background check and/or home studies.
The petitioning couple must appear in court with the child who is being adopted. If the child is 14 or older, he or she will be asked to consent to the adoption. If all goes well, an Adoption Decree will be issued, and the adoption will be formalized.
Clearly, obstacles can abound when a stepparent chooses to adopt a stepchild. If at all possible, you should gain the voluntary consent and agreement to adoption by the non-custodial parent. This will make life after adoption all the more settled and seamless.
If you have to seek a court order to end the other parent’s rights, you will definitely need the assistance of an experienced adoption attorney.
Your petition itself should also be vetted or prepared by an attorney. Even after the adoption, you may need to file additional paperwork to change the adopted child’s name legally or amend his or her birth certificate. In short, you will need the services of an attorney throughout the process -- before, during, and after.
If you’re seeking stepparent adoption in or around Minnetonka, Minnesota, contact The Law Office of Glen A. Norton. He has the experience and resources you need and guidance you can trust. Minnetonka native Norton will work side by side with you as you seek the adoption of your stepchild. Contact him today for a consultation.