Important considerations when contemplating a stepparent adoption in Michigan
Many stepparents play an active role in helping their spouse raise his or her children. You may even consider them to be “your” kids even though you are not biologically related. At some point, the conversation may come up about legally adopting your stepchildren. If this is a move you and your spouse are contemplating, here are a few things to consider as you prepare to move forward in the process:
Introduction to Stepparent Adoption in Michigan
Stepparent adoption is allowable if the biological parents of the child are divorced or were never married. In this case, the new spouse must file a document called a “Petition for Adoption” to start the process.
If the judge allows the adoption to go through, the noncustodial parent (the party not married to the petitioning parent) will be stripped of all custody and parenting time rights. They will no longer be held to any established child support agreement or have any other responsibilities related to the care of the child. Stepparent adoption is a permanent process, which means that even if the stepparent and spouse divorce at some point, the stepparent will remain the legal parent.
Before a stepparent adoption can proceed, the other parent’s rights must be terminated. For this to happen, either one of two things must take place:
- The other parent must agree to voluntarily terminate their parental rights or
- The other parent must have their parental rights involuntarily terminated by the courts
What Happens if the Other Parent Agrees to Adoption?
Stepparent adoption is a simple process if the other parent agrees to terminate their parental rights. The other parent will simply need to fill out all of the necessary paperwork in court in front of the judge or referee.
What Happens if the Other Parent Does Not Agree to the Adoption?
If the other parent refuses to give up their parental rights, you can request an involuntary termination. A judge can legally terminate the rights of the other parent if all of the following circumstances are true:
- The parent who is married to the petitioning stepparent has legal sole or joint custody as established by the courts
- The other parent has failed to provide substantial financial support for the child for at least two years
- The other parent has failed on numerous occasions to visit or has not had substantial contact with the child in two or more years
- The other parent had the means to support the child and the opportunity to visit or contact the child during the two years
The Petitioner will be required to prove in court that each of these scenarios is true.
When the child is 14 years or Older
The child must also agree to the adoption if they are over the age of 14. To do this, the child must sign a “Consent to Adoption by Adoptee” form.
Starting Process for Stepparent Adoption
Couples who are considering stepparent adoption should note that some courts require that a couple is married for at least one year before petitioning the courts. Although this is not required by Michigan law, it may be required according to local court rule.
If you’re concerned about whether or not the other parent will agree to the adoption, it’s best to speak with a lawyer for further guidance.
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