Although you already play a pivotal role in raising and caring for your stepchild, as a stepparent you do not share the same legal rights as a biological parent. Formalizing the relationship through adoption secures those rights and allows you to make key decisions that benefit your stepchild.
Before pursuing adoption, it is important to know what to expect during the process.
In most instances, you will need the consent of the noncustodial parent before you can adopt your stepchild. While written consent is a fundamental element in the legal proceedings to come, the adoption will be easier if everyone involved reaches an agreement before formalizing the process.
Note that the Child Welfare Information Gateway lists several exceptions to this consent requirement. For instance, if there is no care and support given to the child for at least a year, consent may not be necessary. Be aware, as well, that in North Dakota, children over the age of 10 must consent to their own adoptions.
Checks and evaluations
As part of the adoption process, the court typically requires a home study and personal evaluation. This involves interviews, a background check and a thorough examination of the living conditions to ensure a positive and stable environment for your stepchild.
The adoption process culminates in a court hearing. During this hearing, the court reviews the information gathered, assesses the well-being of your stepchild and ensures that your filing meets all legal requirements. If satisfied, the court issues the final adoption decree, formalizing the legal relationship between you and your stepchild.
Once you are aware of the requirements and procedures, you can begin the adoption process with confidence.