Getting married can bring a great joy to those tying the knot. Your spouse may have already had children when you got married, but you all had no trouble bonding and feeling as if you were always meant to be together. Of course, stepparents do not always have the same rights as biological parents, which can be difficult at times.

In many cases, stepparents in Mississippi and other parts of the country want to adopt their stepchildren. While this may seem like a natural step to take after the wedding, it is not an automatic process. In fact, if you want to adopt your stepchildren, you have some hurdles to jump through, including possibly terminating the parental rights of the other biological parent.

Will the biological parent consent?

Though you may love your stepchildren as your own and want to legally call them your children, if both of their biological parents are living, those parents have legal parental rights to the kids. If you want to adopt them, the biological parent not involved in your marital relationship would need to give consent. This consent is not always easy to obtain, as it would mean that the parent is voluntarily giving up his or her parental rights.

In some cases, parents who do not have strong relationships with their kids may easily consent to stepparent adoption. It depends on the circumstances on a case-by-case basis. However, if you cannot find the other parent or the other parent is unfit, you may have the ability to petition the court to have that parent’s rights terminated.

Do you have grounds for termination of rights?

If the other parent will not give consent or you need to petition for the termination of rights for another reason, you will need to prove to the court that at least one of the following stipulations applies:

  • The person considered the birth parent is not actually the biological parent, such as if a person considered the children’s father is not biologically the father.
  • The other parent has essentially abandoned the children by not providing financial support or staying in contact with the children.
  • The other parent is unfit to take care of the children, meaning the parent has substance abuse issues, is abusive or neglectful, or is in jail, for example.

While adoption is a beautiful process, it is also a difficult one to navigate. Because you undoubtedly want your case to go as smoothly as possible, you may find it beneficial to discuss the matter with a knowledgeable family law attorney.