Stepparent adoptions can transform families for the better, resolving long standing conflicts, strengthening connections and giving children a more stable, loving environment. However, the transition is not necessarily straightforward, and families need to be prepared. Stepdads can’t just become just “dads” by fiat, for example.
A former step parent who becomes the legal parent of a child has all the rights and obligations afforded biological parents. There is no legal difference between an adoptive parent and a biological parent. Adopted children also have all the rights of biological children, including the right to inherit as well as rights to various governmental benefits like Social Security.
In most cases, living biological parents must either sign away their parental rights, or a legal proceeding must terminate the parental rights of the biological parent.
Four Reasons Stepparents Seek to Adopt Their Stepchildren
- To sever the relationship between children and an abusive parent. If the biological parent whom the stepparent wants to replace has been abusive or has neglected or abandoned the children, a stepparent who loves and cares for those children may want to step into the shoes of the mean or neglectful parent. This process can give the children the emotional (and, in some cases, financial) security they need to recover from the abuse they suffered at the hands of the former parent.
- To make the relationship legal, so the stepparent maintains custody and visitation rights. If the biological parent to whom the stepparent is married should die, the stepparent may not have legal rights to the children concerning custody. A court may send the children to live with biological relatives who will not even allow the stepparent to visit the children. If the couple divorces, no matter how long they were married and no matter the nature of the relationship between the stepparent and children, the stepparent could end up with the same rights to custody and visitation as any other third party. As an adoptive legal parent, the parent will have the same rights as those of the biological parent.
- To give stepchildren the right to inheritance and benefits. Stepchildren are not included in a stepparent’s employer provided health benefit plan. They are not entitled to any governmental benefits, like Social Security benefits children can receive when a parent dies. Also, if a stepparent dies, stepchildren have no right to inheritance. When the stepparent adopts and becomes a legal parent, the children have all the same rights to benefits and inheritance as do biological children.
- To make legal what is a reality of the stepparent’s life. Many stepparents have spent years acting as a parent in all ways. The adoption just solidifies the relationship and provides all the legal benefits and responsibilities that come with adoption.
If you are considering adopting your stepchild, or if you are a biological parent objecting to the adoption of your children by their stepparent, contact the experienced lawyers at DiPietro Family Law Group for a consultation. We can educate you about the adoption process so you know what to expect. Call us now at (888) 530-4374.