You’ve found the love of your life, the two of you have married and are busy pursuing your happy-ever-after. Congratulations! But we all know that blended family life, while very worthwhile, can at times be tricky. Often, the best solution for the two of you and your new spouse’s child(ren) is to make it official: follow up with a step-parent adoption. This is where a non-biological parent adopts the biological child or children of their spouse, becoming their legal parent.
A Step-Parent adoption generally falls under two categories:
A. A consent adoption where the other biological parent consents or agrees to the adoption; and ,
B. A termination adoption where the parental rights of the other biological parent are legally terminated and the step-parent is then able to adopt.
In this scenario the non-custodial parent and your spouse agree to have you, the step-parent, adopt their child. The non-custodial parent gives their consent to the adoption, and agrees to give up all their rights to the child or children. This means that they are no longer the legal parent, and will not have any legal right to parenting time, custody of any form, or information such as school or medical records. In addition, the consent means that they will no longer have any responsibility for the child(ren), such as paying child support or maintaining health insurance and so on.
While this is potentially the simplest means of completing the adoption, getting the child’s other parent to agree to give up their parental rights may be difficult. However, if this is your situation and you are confident that the non-custodial parent will consent, contact our office and we will assist you in quickly maneuvering your case through court.
If the non-custodial biological other parent does not agree to the adoption, you will want to consider a step-parent adoption via terminating the non-custodial parent’s rights. In this situation, you need to carefully consider if it is a possibility for you. You must meet certain legal criteria in order to pursue this type of adoption.
The petitioner (person who, jointly with the proposed step-parent files with the court) must be a custodial parent, with at least joint (or full) custody. In other words, according to Michigan Law, if the other biological parent has sole physical or sole legal custody of the child, and you, the petitioner do not have any custody at all, you cannot begin the process. (MCL 710.51(6)).
A. Under the same law, the petitioner, with at least some form of custody, must further have that custody under a formal Court Order. A simple Acknowledgment of Parentage, which may serve as a custody award, is not enough to meet the standard of the law. If a biological parent, who does have at least partial custody, wishes to file for the adoption, they must first file for a formal Custody Order if they do not already have one.
B. When you file for the adoption with the court, you will need to simultaneously file to Terminate the Parental Rights of the other parent. Under MCL 710.51(6), the criteria for termination has two parts:
I. The other parent has not had any contact whatsoever with the child(ren) for at least two (2) years;
II. The other parent has not provided any form of support for the child(ren) for at least two (2) years. The two year time frame is measured backwards from the day the petition is filed.
You will need to consider these two criteria carefully, and will need to include the relevant information in your petition for adoption.
The law governing Step-parent adoptions with termination of a parent’s rights under MCL 710.51(6) states that, upon giving notice and a hearing, the court may terminate a parent’s rights where (1) That parent, having the ability to support, or at least assist in supporting, the child has failed or neglected to provide regular, substantial support for the child; or, (2) Having the ability to visit, contact or communicate with the child, has regularly and substantially failed or neglected to do so for a period of two years or more before the filing of the petition. The key time frame being at the time of filing and the preceding two (2) years, not after the other parent receives a motion to terminate his or her rights.
A Step-Parent Adoption can be a very positive thing for families. It can strengthen the bond between the step-parent and non-biological children in important tangible and non-tangible ways. The adoption can cement the new family together beyond just sharing the same residence and create family ties that will last for generations. If you are considering a Step-Parent Adoption, contact Van Den Heuvel Law Office. Our attorneys are very experienced in helping families achieve their adoptions. The attorneys will personally take an interest in your case and in its success because attorneys in our firm have also been adoptive parents, siblings in adoptions, or had personal experience with adoption such that they believe in the power of adoption.
To talk with our attorney about your legal concerns, contact the Van Den Heuvel Law Office by calling 616-698-0000. You may also complete our online contact form. After-hours consultations are available by appointment. We are also available on Skype by appointment.