Because our Wichita family law firm handles many divorces and paternity proceedings we often receive questions about stepparent adoptions. While adoptions of a child by a stepparent may be similar to other types of adoption proceedings, the process is generally more streamlined and certain steps in the process often are waived. While stepparent adoptions may be complicated if the non-custodial biological parent cannot be located or refuses to consent to the adoption, many times consent can be obtained because the other parent recognizes that the adoption is in the child’s best interest or more typically because it relieves an absentee biological parent of the obligation to pay child support. Because we receive many questions regarding this form of adoption, we have provided answers to some of the most typical questions we receive:
Must the other parent consent to the adoption if the parent exercises little involvement in the child’s life?
The short answer to this question is yes, but this does not tell the whole story. The other parent’s consent is required if there is not a basis for terminating the parental rights of the other parent. One basis for terminating the parental rights of the other parent is to establish that the absentee parent has abandoned the child. Abandonment by a biological parent can be established by providing evidence that the non-custodial parent has not provided support or exercised parental duties during the prior two years or that the parent abandoned a new born infant. An occasional child support payment standing alone will not generally be sufficient to prevent termination of parental rights or the stepparent adoption.
What if I do not know how to locate the other parent?
The other parent is entitled to notice of the proceedings so that the parent has an opportunity to object to the adoption. If the non-custodial parent cannot be found, an affidavit must be provided to the court attesting to a diligent search, and notice by publication must be provided over a consecutive three week period.
How long does a stepparent adoption take if the other parent agrees to terminate his or her parental rights?
The stepparent adoption process is typically much faster than an agency adoption if the other biological parent consents to a termination of parental rights. The process often takes no longer than 45 days when the consent of the other parent is given for the adoption. There is a mandatory waiting period of thirty days before a stepparent adoption can be final after the case is filed. The other parent must receive notice and an opportunity to appear and object a minimum of twenty days prior to the hearing.
What if my child does not want the adoption to go forward?
The child has a right to object to the adoption if the child is thirteen or older. The consent of the child is mandatory if the child has reached this age. If the child is eleven or twelve, the court will probably ask the child if he or she is agreeable to the adoption. Because adoption of a child and termination of a biological parent’s rights can have an enormous psychological impact on a child, it is important to help your child become comfortable with the idea prior to initiating the stepparent adoption.
What if I have been living with the “stepparent” for years, but we are not legally married?
Stepparent adoptions are not permitted unless the party seeking to adopt is married to biological or adoptive parent.
If you have questions about the stepparent adoption process in Kansas, we urge you to schedule a consultation to learn about the requirements and procedure. Wichita, KS adoption attorney Thomas C. McDowell has been practicing law for over two decades. We provide legal representation in agency, foreign and stepparent adoptions. So please call us today at 316-633-4322 or submit an online case evaluation form.