What You Need to Know About Adopting Your Stepchild in Michigan

Blended families are becoming more and more common with the rise in divorce rates over the last few decades, and there are times when it makes sense for a stepparent to consider adopting a stepchild, for legal, practical, and emotional reasons. However, this can be difficult to accomplish, especially if a noncustodial parent still has legal rights and refuses to relinquish them.

As with all issues of custody, the court strives to act in the best interests of children. It is generally assumed that having a continuing relationship with both biological parents is preferable, barring extenuating circumstances, and this can put a wrench in the works of adoption proceedings. However, adopting a stepchild is not impossible, and the process can even be relatively easy if the noncustodial parent has no objections. Here’s what parents and stepparents need to know.

Criteria for Stepchild Adoption
In order for a stepparent to adopt a child, several criteria must be met. First, the biological parents of the child must be divorced or never have been married. Alternately, the noncustodial parent may be deceased. This is because the noncustodial parent’s rights must be terminated before adoption by a stepparent can occur.

Second, the stepparent must be the current spouse of the custodial parent of the child. Perhaps more importantly, the stepparent must wish to adopt the child, and the custodial parent must agree. Adoption by a stepparent infers permanent legal rights, making the stepparent a legal parent. Even if the custodial parent and the stepparent divorce, the stepparent will retain the right to seek custody and parenting time. Naturally, all parties involved have to agree in order to proceed with adoption.

Finally, it should be noted that children over the age of 14 have a say in the adoption process. If they don’t want to be adopted by a stepparent, their decision effectively puts an end to the proceedings.

Noncustodial Parental Rights
Before adoption by a stepparent can occur, the rights of the noncustodial parent must be terminated. If the noncustodial parent agrees to voluntarily terminate parental rights, the process is made incredibly easy. All the custodial parent and stepparent have to do is file applicable forms, attend a court proceeding, and wait 21 days for the appeals period to expire before the adoption is granted.

That said, a noncustodial parent that agrees to termination of parental rights effectively gives up all future rights to custody and visitation. This can be a hard pill to swallow, even if a noncustodial parent doesn’t currently take an active role in the child’s life.

Adoption is still possible, but only if the custodial parent and stepparent can prove to the court’s satisfaction that the noncustodial parent has been negligent to the point that his/her custodial rights should be involuntarily revoked by the court. This means proving failure to provide substantial support for children or to comply with court-imposed support, and failure to visit or contact children for at least two years prior to the adoption proceedings.

Adopting a stepchild in Michigan can be relatively easy or incredibly complex. The best place to start is by contacting the expert attorneys at The Gucciardo Law Firm at 248-723-5190 to explore your options.

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