5 Things You Should Know about Stepparent Adoption in Michigan
With roughly 1 in 3 marriages ending in divorce (and divorce rates even higher in cases of subsequent marriages), it should come as no surprise that plenty of children in America are now living in blended households. In an ideal world, the biological parents would both maintain a presence in their children’s lives, and biological parents and stepparents would all get along and do their best to raise children in loving and stable homes.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out this way. At times, non-custodial parents are absent, leaving step-parents to pick up the slack. Naturally, these parental figures grow to love the children they’re caring for and even regard them as their own. In such cases, the custodial parent and his/her new spouse may become interested in stepparent adoption so that the stepparent can take on the legal rights and responsibilities of parenthood, in addition to the practical ones. Here are a few things you should know about stepparent adoption in Michigan.
It Takes Two to Tango
In the state of Michigan, a united front is necessary to make stepparent adoption a reality. In other words, a stepparent may not take it upon him/herself to file for adoption – the custodial parent and stepparent must file the petition for adoption together. This is different from other types of adoption proceedings, where the parent or parents are generally defendants. In this case, the custodial parent is the petitioner, along with a new spouse (i.e. the stepparent).
Biological Parents Must be Divorced
If the non-custodial parent and the custodial parent are still married, a stepparent adoption cannot occur. This is because a new partner is not legally considered a stepparent until he/she married the custodial parent. So, in addition to being divorced from the other biological parent, the custodial parent must also be remarried to the stepparent seeking adoption.
Parental Rights Will be Terminated
In order for a stepparent adoption to occur, the rights of the non-custodial biological parent must first be terminated. In some cases, this will already be done, which makes moving ahead with adoption fairly simple. If both parents still retain legal rights to children, a supplemental petition for termination of rights must be decided before adoption can proceed.
Testing May be Necessary
If the custodial parent is the mother, the process of stepparent adoption could be complicated if there is some question about paternity of the children. Since a termination of parental rights of the non-custodial parent is part of the stepparent adoption process, a non-custodial parent must first be legally established.
In cases where the father is putative, or in which a man is alleged to be the biological father, a petition to conduct a hearing to establish paternity must precede the adoption petition. Once paternity has been determined, the termination of parental rights can proceed.
Adoption Infers Legal Rights and Responsibilities
It’s important that both the custodial parent and the stepparent understand the ramifications of stepparent adoption. This process infers legal rights and responsibilities that will continue even if the custodial parent and stepparent divorce, and could include joint custody and child support, among other obligations.
If you’re interested in the prospect of stepparent adoption, you’ll want to contact the experienced lawyers at The Gucciardo Law Firm at 248-723-5190.
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