How Do I Go About Adopting My Stepchild in Michigan?

There is a growing culture of blended families that feature children from multiple unions, or children being raised by one natural parent and his/her new spouse. It’s not surprising in such situations that stepparents would become interested in adopting the children they’re helping to raise.

Being a good parent doesn’t necessarily require you to share DNA with a child – it can result from a custodial relationship in which you provide for a child financially, physically, and emotionally, creating a stable home environment in which the child can flourish and remain healthy and happy. That said, biological parents have many rights. So, how do you go about adopting your stepchild in Michigan?

Eligibility
In order to adopt a stepchild in Michigan, you have to meet certain criteria. First, the biological parents of the child must be divorced, or they must never have been married. Stepparent adoption cannot proceed while the two biological parents of the child are still married.

As you may have guessed, you must also be married to one of the child’s biological parents, and you must have taken on a parenting role. If you are just living with the parent, but not married, you are not legally considered a stepparent, and therefore cannot complete a stepparent adoption, regardless of the parenting role you play. That said, there is no time limit on how long you must be a stepparent in order to start the adoption process.

Termination of Parental Rights
Even if the biological parents of the child are divorced and you have married one of them, you cannot adopt the child until the parental rights of the other parent have been terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Obviously, the easiest path forward is if the other parent agrees with the adoption, volunteers to terminate parental rights, and shows up at the hearing to sign appropriate paperwork to that effect in front of the judge.

Involuntary termination of parental rights must be determined by a judge, and it requires that the other parent has failed to provide the child with substantial financial support for two years, has failed to substantially visit or contact the child for two years, and further, had the means to support and visit the child during this time period, but failed to do so anyway.

The Process
When filing to adopt a stepchild, you must provide several relevant documents, including birth certificates (for you, your spouse, and the child), a marriage license, applicable divorce decrees or death certificates (for other spouses), an Affidavit of Parentage, applicable support orders for the child, and more. If the child is 14 or older, he/she must sign a Consent to Adoption by Adoptee.

When all your paperwork is in order you can file your petition for adoption with the courts, an investigation will ensue, resulting in a report that the court may use in deciding the case, and a hearing will be scheduled to decide the matter.

Adopting a stepchild is not an easy process, legally or emotionally, and you want to make sure you get all your ducks in a row. The qualified attorneys at The Gucciardo Law Firm are here to help. Contact us today at 248-723-5190.

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We focus exclusively on family law matters so we are always available to answer your questions and help.

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