When you marry a person who had children by a different mother or father, you are a stepparent to that child, but the biological parent of that child will still have the parental rights under the law with respect to that child. Through a stepparent adoption, however, you can become the legal parent of your spouse’s child, which will legally terminate the other biological parent’s rights. Adopting a stepchild is a wonderful act, but it is important to think through the pros and cons of adopting your spouse’s children first.
Pro: You Will Have the Right to Be a Part of Important Decisions on Behalf of the Child
Without taking the steps to adopt your stepchild, you do not have the legal right to make important decisions on behalf of the child, such as where the child will go to school, what religious activities the child should take part in, where the child can travel, and what medical treatment the child will receive. Your spouse alone may have those rights or may share them with the biological parent. By adopting your stepchild, you can take a greater role in raising your spouse’s children.
Furthermore, should your marriage to the other spouse end at any point, you will have no rights to ongoing custody of the child without a stepparent adoption
Con: You Will Have the Responsibility to Financially Provide for the Child
Along with the right to parent the child comes the responsibility of providing for the child. Legal parents of a child are legally required to financially provide for their children. If the marriage does come to an end, you may be ordered to pay child support on behalf of that child (and the other biological parent will have no obligation to pay child support as their parental rights were terminated).
Pro: You Can Remove the Influence of a Biological Parent From the Child’s Life
Even though a previous marriage or relationship may have long ago ended, a biological parent can still wield enormous influence on a child’s life. That parent can seek a new custody arrangement giving him or her more time with the child, and can in most cases demand court-ordered visitation. That parent can also demand to make important decisions on behalf of the child regarding education, religion, healthcare, and other important issues.
This can become a problem when that parent is abusive, a bad influence, or simply has ideas regarding how the child should be raised that conflict with those of you and your spouse. With a stepparent adoption, you can terminate the biological parent’s parental rights and remove his or her influence from the child’s life.
Con: Terminating Another Parent’s Rights Can Cause Conflict
Terminating another parent’s parental rights sometimes does not come without conflict, as it will require a court investigator to assess your ability to parent the child and a hearing at which the other parent can protest the termination of his or her parental rights. In many cases, however, biological parents willingly consent to the termination of their rights, and, in all cases, the court will make a decision regarding termination of a parent’s rights based on the best interests of that child.
Pro: You Can Clearly Show Your Spouse and Stepchild How Much They Mean to You
Finally, a stepparent adoption is one of the most tangible ways that you can demonstrate how committed you are to creating a new family with your spouse and his or her children. The fact that you are willing to take on the rights and responsibilities of parenthood can go a long way towards building the commitment and trust often necessary for a family to thrive.
Get Help in Your Stepparent Adoption / Parental Rights Matter
When seeking a stepparent adoption, having an experienced family law attorney on your side to present your best arguments can be critical to your success. The Pasadena family law attorneys at Kearney Baker work with clients across Southern California in helping them reach the best possible results for parents and children alike. For help with any family law matter you are facing, please contact the experienced, compassionate family law attorneys at Kearney Baker today at 626-768-2945.