|Posted by Sarah I. Malik on October 15, 2018 at 10:15 AM|
A stepparent adoption is an independent adoption where a stepparent adopts the child of his or her spouse. The spouse remains a parent and legal guardian of the child and the other biological parent must provide consent or terminate their parental rights.
There are many reasons why a person may choose to adopt a stepchild:
*The stepparent is playing a very active day-to-day part in that child’s life and has formed a relationship like that of a natural parent and child. Stepparent adoption represent a true commitment and love to the child
*The stepparent, spouse and child can share the same last name
*The stepparent can make important decisions for the child, in which he or she may likely already be involved
*The child can inherit from the stepparent, benefit from Social Security and insurance
What does the process entail in Maryland?
*The stepparent must file a petition to the court to adopt the child
*The non-custodial parent must either give his or her consent to the stepparent adoption or terminate their parental rights. It should be noted that once a parent consents and does terminate the parental rights (and the adoption is final), it relinquishes him or her of the legal rights and responsibilities over the child, such as paying child support or having access to the child.
*If a biological parent is deceased or cannot be located, the stepparent must prove by affidavit or publication of notices that the biological parent cannot be located.
*File all other paperwork with the court (e.g., the stepparent’s health records, income information, consent of a child if the child is older than 10)
*Attend the final adoption hearing where the Judge will take testimony to ensure that the stepparent understands and intends to care for the child as though he was born to him or her. The court will then sign the final Adoption Decree which identifies that the stepparent is now a parent and legal guardian of the child
What happens if the other parent does not consent?
Stepparent adoptions must be navigated carefully. If the other biological parent does not consent, then the adoption may still continue but the adoption is considered contested. The other parent must be notified of the petition and intent to adopt and has a period of time to object to the adoption. Whether or not the parent files the objection, then the court will determine at the final adoption hearing whether the adoption by the stepparent is in the child’s best interest.