The role of a step-parent is very often one filled with minimal glory. Absent the biological parent, the step-parent’s role becomes essential to the emotional and financial well-being of the child, though devoid of the legal rights to fully carry out that responsibility.
The decision to adopt a step-child is monumental in nature. It provides both the step-parent and especially the child a sense of long-term stability and belonging. Adoption also enables the new parent the ability to make educational, financial and medical decisions. The adopted child also has the right of inheritance and survivor benefits, the same as a biological child.
A step-parent adoption usually involves two steps, unless the birth parent is deceased. The first step, legal termination of parental rights, can be accomplished with the birth parent’s consent or evidence of a birth parent’s abandonment and/or inability to parent. A severance hearing before a judge, culminating in a signed order terminating parental rights, is necessary prior to the adoption.
The second step is the adoption itself. The step-parent’s spouse consents to the adoption of the child. Typically, a homestudy, fingerprints and step-parent background check are processed; these may be essential to the judge’s approval of the adoption. Finally, a new birth certificate is issued with the adoptive parent’s name.
The entire process, dependent on how complicated the situation is, can take a couple of months to several months. The end result, to provide a child you love with the stability and permanency he or she needs, is worth the time and effort.