Dedicated Phoenix Family Lawyers Explain Everything About Adopting a Stepchild In Arizona
It’s a modern classic romance- you meet the one, and one or both of you has children from a previous relationship. You get married and create a happy blended family. You may even want to adopt your partner’s child as your own. If so, you are probably wondering how to go about adopting your partner’s stepchild, and if it is even possible for you. Read on to learn what our dedicated Phoenix family lawyers have to say about adopting a stepchild in Arizona.
What Are The Benefits Of Adopting a Stepchild?
There are several reasons you may want to adopt your stepchild, besides the symbolic meaning of being recognized as a family in the eyes of the law. This may be the step that makes your family feel more emotionally secure. It may be especially meaningful to adopt a stepchild when the other parent has been mostly absent or an inconsistent figure in the child’s life. You may want to have a say in decisions about the child’s upbringing, like educational, medical, and religious decisions. It also eliminates the worry of who would get custody of the child should the child’s birth parent pass away. You may deny the birth parent visitation with the child if their rights are severed and you adopt the child.
What Is Required For a Stepchild Adoption?
Typically, the adoption process requires a certification process, a placement study, and an accounting review. When the prospective adoptive parent is the child’s stepparent, these requirements are bypassed. If the child’s other parent is still living, their parental rights will need to be terminated. The stepparent must have also been married to the child’s parent (who must consent to the adoption) for at least one year, and have lived with the child for at least 6 months. The adoptive stepparent must be at least 18 years old, and must be at least 10 years older than the stepchild. The child must give their consent to the adoption if they are 12 or older. A stepparent who wishes to adopt their stepchild can begin the adoption process after these requirements have been met.
What Are The Steps To Complete The Stepchild Adoption Process In Arizona?
- Draft a petition to adopt your stepchild and file it with the court. Adoption can be a complicated process, especially if the other parent is still living, so you may want to hire an attorney to take care of this for you. This petition will include basic information like your name, address, and marital information, as well as a description of your relationship with the child. You may use an alias for your stepchild to protect their privacy. You will also need to provide all interested parties with a notice of hearing. Make sure that you file the petition in the correct jurisdiction- usually where the child resides. The child’s parent will also need to fill out a Consent to Adoption.
- If applicable, obtain a termination of parental rights from the child’s other parent. The other parent may agree to a parental termination. Otherwise, you can petition the court to terminate the other parent’s right. You should also use this step if you cannot locate the other parent. This step can be fairly simple if the other parent consents, but can be quite difficult and expensive if the parent doesn’t want to terminate their rights.
- A state official will visit your home. They will generally check that there is no criminal activity or abuse in the home.
- Adoption hearing. Unless the judge has ordered otherwise, the child must be present at this hearing. Children 12 years and older are considered by the court to be competent to consent to their own adoption.
- Final orders are issued. If your petition is denied, you may begin the appeals process. If it was granted, you now have the same legal rights and obligations to the child as their birth parent.
When Will The Court Grant Termination Of Parental Rights?
Obtaining a termination of the other parent’s parental rights is a necessary step of the adoption process if that parent is still alive. This can be even more difficult if that parent has custody of the child. However, there are some factors that make the court more likely to sever a parent’s rights against their wishes. If the parent has been shown to be abusive, this will increase the likelihood that the court will sever parental rights. This is especially true if the parent is incarcerated for the abuse. If the birth parent has abandoned the child, including financial abandonment, the court is also more likely to sever parental rights. Mental illness, drug abuse, and certain convictions are all cause for the court to terminate parental rights. Prior parental terminations can be used as proof that the parent is unfit in future termination proceedings.
Termination of parental rights won’t necessarily be a battle. The parent may consent to the termination and sign a document relinquishing their legal rights and obligations to their child. This document will generally need to be notarized, as it irrevocably severs the parent’s legal relationship with the child. Parental rights can be terminated whether the other parent has a new partner who wants to adopt the child.
Our Phoenix Family Lawyers Can Assist With Adopting a Stepchild
Attorney representation isn’t required in family law matters, but isn’t constitutionally provided to you as in criminal proceedings. If you want representation while adopting your stepchild, you will need to hire an attorney of your own choosing. Your attorney will make sure the process is completed as efficiently as possible, without delays caused by an inaccurate petition for adoption. For quality family law representation with pricing that works with your budget, call Phoenix Divorce Attorneys today to schedule your free consultation. Plus, our dedicated staff and family attorneys offer flexible payment plans and office hours to ease the strain of the family law process. To get started, call (480) 263-1699 or use our online form to schedule your free consultation
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