A step-parent adoption is a process through which a married couple is able to permanently and legally unify a previously blended family by changing the legal relationship of the spouse of the biological mother or father to his or her step-child. After the completion of a step-parent adoption, the child becomes the child of both husband and wife as if the child was the biological child of both and born during their marriage.
The process begins with the filing of a Petition For Adoption. Both the natural parent and spouse file on behalf of their child. The other biological parent is served with a copy of the Petition notifying him of the request for adoption.
If the child is over the age of fourteen, his written consent will be included with the filing of the Petition. For younger children, their written consent is not required in Missouri.
As part of the adoption process, the legal rights of the other biological parent are legally and permanently terminated ending any current or potential future rights to custody or visitation he may have. After his rights are terminated, his future financial obligation to help support the minor child is also terminated. For theses reason, the court will closely examine the circumstances of the minor child before any termination takes place.
However, the process of terminating the other biological parent's rights can be greatly simplified if that parent consents. For this reason, acquiring the consent of the biological parent surrendering the child for adoption can be a vital step in finalizing the adoption process.
The parental rights of the other parent may be terminated and thus the adoption allowed proceed, without that parent's consent in other circumstances, including: when the identity of one parent is unknown and can't be discovered at the time of adoption; a person, who after being served with a Petition For Adoption, fails to contest the termination of parental rights by filing an Answer or by appearing in court; when it can be shown that the parent has a permanent mental condition that will prevent the parent from being able to knowingly provide the child the necessary care, custody and control; and circumstances when it can be shown that for a period of six months a parent has willfully abandoned the child or has willfully, substantially and continuously neglected the to provide the child with the necessary care and protection.
As part of the step-parent adoption process, the interest of the child is represented by a court appointed guardian ad litem who serves as the legal advocate for the child's best interests in the adoption. This person is typically an attorney. The guardian ad litem will interview all relevant parties and the minor child, when appropriate, and will attend all court proceedings.
Further, the name of the minor child may be changed, as part of the step-parent adoption process, to conform with the name of adoptive parents.
A stepparent adoption is a great way to formalize the union of a family for both the adopted child and the adopting parents. Contact our office today to discuss if a stepparent adoption is right for you.