Legally, your spouse’s child is only your stepchild after you adopt him or her. Without adopting the child, you can have a great relationship, you can support him or her financially, and you can be a family, but you cannot call yourself his or her legal parent because you are not the child’s legal parent.
Legal parenthood carries numerous benefits and responsibilities. If the child’s other biological parent consents to your adoption or if the other parent’s rights to the child have been terminated, you can petition to adopt him or her to become a legal parent. Here are four reasons to adopt your stepchild:
The most important reason to adopt your stepchild is to gain parental rights. Parental rights to your child include:
If your marriage ends, your relationship with your child does not have to if you adopt him or her. In your divorce, you will have as much of a right to the child as your spouse has.
This means you can cover him or her as a dependent on your health insurance and you can claim him or her as a dependent on your taxes. In some cases, this grants the child access to far better healthcare than he or she had previously.
Yes, you can leave assets to your spouse’s child in your will without legally adopting him or her. If you cannot legally adopt the child because his or her other parent refuses to consent to the adoption, this could be the only way to ensure that the child receives part of your estate after you pass away.
By legally adopting your spouse’s child, you can guarantee that he or she receives assets from your estate if you die without a will. Dying without a will is known as dying intestate. Under Michigan’s intestate succession law, adopted stepchildren have the same right to inherit a parent’s assets as biological children have.
For many families, adoption symbolically “seals” them as a family unit. Of course, the significance an adoption carries for you and your child is highly dependent on your relationship and your personalities. Talk to your child about how your family should celebrate the adoption. Whether you have a big party or just a quiet acknowledgment of the adoption, it is an important day in both of your lives.
Adopting your stepchild can be one of the most rewarding choices you ever make. If you are planning to adopt your stepchild, contact our team of experienced adoption lawyers at The Van Den Heuvel Law Office today to set up your initial legal consultation with us, during which we can discuss your case in greater detail.
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