Not all families look alike, and they most certainly do not always start out the same. Some parents are unwed, others may be single parents, some may be in a traditional family where married parents birth their own children and, in some cases, children are adopted. Adoptions occur for many reasons, and it is not only because a couple cannot birth their own children. For some, adoption occurs when a stepparent seeks to become a child’s legal parent after marrying a birth parent.
Like any adoption, stepparent adoptions require a legal process to terminate parental rights. In a stepparent adoption, both parents must give consent. First, the parent maintaining parental rights must consent to an individual becoming a stepparent. Then, the other parent must consent to terminating their parental rights so the stepparent could assume parental rights of the child.
If a parent has already terminated their rights or consents to it, then the process can move forward; however, if they do not consent, it is a much more challenging process to terminate them. Parental rights could be terminated in three situations if one is seeking to terminate a male parent’s rights. These include abandonment of the child, being unfit or not being the biological father.
Abandonment occurs when a parent has failed to communicate with the child, provide financial support or has seen the child for an extended period of time, usually a year. Proving one is an unfit parent could mean showing that they are abusive, neglectful, fail to visit the child, have a mental disturbance, is addicted to drugs or alcohol or is incarcerated. Finally, when seeking to prove that a man is not the biological father, a paternity test could help prove this.
Starting and expanding a family is an exciting step to take for anyone; however, when the adoption process is utilized to do this, it could cause some challenges. Navigating family law and child custody matters can be complex and emotional. Thus, it is imperative that parents and parents-to-be fully understand their rights and how best to move forward with the process.