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Divorce After Adoption

Divorce After Adoption: What You Need to Know

Adoption in Michigan gives the adoptive parents the same rights and responsibilities toward their adopted child as they would have toward a biological child. Thus, the fact that a child was adopted has very little relevance in a divorce proceeding.

However, adoption could arise through a few circumstances, as is the case when a stepparent adopts a biological child of their spouse.

Here are some facts that you should know about divorce after an adoption has taken place.

Adoption in Michigan

Adoption is a legal procedure that establishes the parent-child relationship outside of a genetic relationship. Sometimes, neither of the adoptive parents has a genetic relationship with the child.

In other cases, one parent is genetically related to the child and the other parent desires a parent-child relationship without a genetic connection. For example, if a parent has a child from a prior relationship and marries, the stepparent may wish to adopt the child.

In adopting the child, the law creates the same relationship between the parent and child as it does for a biological child. In fact, at the end of the adoption, the state issues a new birth certificate that lists the adoptive parents, and there is no reference to adoption on it.

As a result, the adoptive parents are:

  • Responsible for the health, safety, and financial support of the child
  • Empowered to make decisions affecting the child’s upbringing, including the child’s education and religion
  • Permanently placed into the position of parents, unless a court terminates the parental rights

These adoptive rights extend to parental rights in a divorce.

Divorce After Adoption in Michigan

In a divorce proceeding, a judge will order child custody and visitation for biological and adopted children. Thus, adoptive parents will go through the same process as biological parents to develop a parenting plan with custody and visitation arrangements. If the parents cannot agree, the judge will weigh each parent’s evidence and order custody and visitation.

Stepparent Rights in a Divorce

The same holds true when a biological parent and an adoptive parent divorce. The adoptive parent has the same rights to custody and visitation as the biological parent.

But in many cases, a stepparent only “adopted” the child emotionally and did not go through legal adoption. In these cases, the stepparent has no legal relationship with the child. As a result, the stepparent has no right to custody or visitation with the child.

Michigan provides no visitation rights to anyone outside of parents and grandparents. A stepparent who has not adopted a stepchild does not fall into either of those categories and has no legal right to ask for visitation.

Agreement for Stepparent Visitation

At the same time, nothing prevents a stepparent who doesn’t have parental rights from reaching an agreement for visitation with the stepchild. A court will approve any arrangement that serves the best interests of the children. So a court would have no basis to reject an agreement that gives visitation to a stepparent who has a parental relationship with a child.

But keep in mind that the stepparent has no right to ask for visitation and the biological parent can reject a request for visitation if the stepparent has not legally adopted the child.

Adoption Protects Parental Rights in a Divorce

Adoption establishes a legal relationship between a parent and child. This relationship exists whether the other parent is also an adoptive parent or a biological parent. Divorce does not affect this relationship and ensures that the adoptive parents have the right to custody and visitation.

To ensure your rights as an adoptive parent are protected during a divorce, reach out to the Gucciardo Family Law team. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.


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