When you’re the co-parent of your spouse’s children from a previous relationship, it’s normal to build a tight bond with those children. But as a stepparent, you have limited parental rights unless you adopt those children as your own.
This is a big step, but if you, your spouse, and your children agree, it can bring your family closer together and simplify family matters in your day-to-day activities and parenting obligations. But the process of adopting a stepchild is unique, and you need to know what to expect before you start working with a Missouri adoption lawyer.
You May Need the Non-Custodial Parent’s Consent
Before you can adopt your stepchild, you’ll want to try to get the non-custodial parent’s consent to the adoption. This is because once you adopt the child, the birth parent loses all parental rights. Without their consent, pursuing an adoption may prove difficult.
That doesn’t mean you can’t pursue adoption if the birth parent doesn’t agree or can’t be located. There are ways to get the court to intervene, but they can take time and further delay the adoption process.
Keep in mind that this only applies to minors. If you’re trying to adopt a stepchild who is 18 years old or older, you only need their consent to proceed.
You’ll Need to Meet Certain Criteria
When you adopt a stepchild, you’re agreeing to become their legal guardian and parent. This means you’ll need to meet certain criteria for the court to deem you an appropriate guardian. These criteria include the following:
- You must be 21 years of age or older.
- You must be in good physical and mental health. Medical exams may be required as part of the process.
- You must have a stable source of income. This can include your spouse’s income if you’re planning on being a stay-at-home parent.
- You must be legally married to the child’s custodial parent for at least six months prior to filing for adoption.
- You must pass a criminal background check.
As long as you meet these criteria, you’ll be able to file a petition for adoption in Missouri.
Your Child May Also Need to Consent to the Adoption
Though it’s possible to adopt very young children without their consent, you’ll want to make sure your stepchild is open to the idea of adoption before you petition the court. Talk to them as a family and make sure they’re on board with the idea of the adoption. If they’re not, adopting them won’t be in their best interest. Furthermore, the court may deny your petition if your stepchild doesn’t agree to the change.
The Process Can Take Time
Unfortunately, adoptions aren’t something that can happen overnight. The process can take several weeks to several years, depending on the circumstances surrounding the adoption. The best thing you can do is work with an experienced Missouri adoption attorney to help you expedite your petition and make sure all aspects of your adoption happen as smoothly as possible.
Schedule a Consultation Today
At Columbia Family Law, our team understands the unique challenges that stepchild adoptions can pose, and we want to help your family through every step of the process. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.