Columbus, Ohio Step-parent Adoption Attorneys
If you are a step-parent looking to adopt your step-child, the attorneys at Wood & Long, LLC are familiar with this process. We understand that you are seeking to have the law recognize the bond you have established with your child and are ready to assist you with that endeavor.
How do I adopt my step-child?
To start an adoption proceeding, you need to file a petition with the probate court, along with some ancillary paperwork. You will want to file in the county where you live, the child lives, or where the natural parent of the child lives. You must serve the petition on the child’s natural parents. Though it is likely your spouse will simply consent and file a waiver to that effect. The other parent must be served formally or sign a written consent to the adoption. If the other parent does not sign a consent beforehand and a hearing must be held, you must serve him or her with notice of the hearing. The general rule is that if the natural parents do not consent, the adoption cannot take place. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
Do the child’s parents have to consent to the adoption?
Yes. Both natural parents whose parental rights have not been terminated must consent to the adoption. Typically, the spouse of the step-parent is more than willing to sign a consent, as the couple have reached this decision together. The child’s other natural parent must also consent or meet one of the exceptions for this requirement. The exceptions include that the natural parent has failed to communicate with the child or provide financial support for one year immediately preceding the adoption petition filing date. If the child’s parent has failed to do either of those, then his or her consent is not required.
What happens after we file the Petition for Adoption?
You will likely have an assessor appointed to your case, who will come to your home and view where the child will be living and then provide an opinion to the court about the suitability of the home. You may also need to file some additional paperwork or complete a background check. The information gathered is sent directly to the probate court.
What happens at the adoption hearing?
At the hearing, you and your spouse will be interviewed. The child will also be interviewed outside the presence of the parents and step-parent. After the hearing, if the court finds it to be in the child’s best interest, the adoption will be finalized in the form of a decree of adoption. Sometimes, an interlocutory decree is issued first, which makes the adoption temporary and then is automatically made final after six months. The Probate Court will issue an order to the Office of Vital Statistics to have a new birth certificate issued that shows the name of the step-parent as the child’s natural parent. Typically, the parties also request that the child’s name be changed.
Once the adoption is finalized, what are my rights and responsibilities to the child?
Adoption creates a permanent legal relationship between the child and the step-parent and terminates the legal relationship between the child and the natural parent. With an adoption decree, it is as if the child were born to the step-parent. The decree is permanent and can only be overturned in very limited circumstances. In the event of divorce, the step-parent is responsible for child support and/or is qualified to seek custody or visitation. The child can inherit through the step-parent the same as a natural born child. The parent whose rights were terminated no longer has a legal right to visit the child nor a legal obligation to support the child; the child cannot inherit through that parent’s family, either.
If you are a step-parent seeking to adopt your step-child, call our Columbus, Ohio office today at (614) 567-3031 to set up your initial consultation. If you hire us, we will credit your account with the cost of your consultation.