No two families in Mississippi are alike. Some parents have biological children, while others choose to adopt. Adopting a child is a great way to make what people already feel is a genuine familial relationship into a legally binding one. Stepparent adoption can have its own unique challenges, though.
Wanting to adopt a stepchild is a big step in life that may hold significant meaning to both the adult and the child. However, turning the desire to adopt into action requires certain steps. Those steps may differ, depending on the involvement of the stepchild’s other birth parent.
Does the other birth parent need to give consent?
It depends. You will most likely need consent from your stepchild’s other biological parent before receiving permission to continue with the adoption. This can be a complicated step for everyone involved.
Giving consent means that the other birth parent will not just give up parental responsibilities, but also a legal right to have a relationship with your stepchild. If he or she does not maintain a relationship with your stepchild, then it might be a bit easier to get consent. You do not need to get consent if a judge has already terminated his or her parental rights.
What if the birth parent does not consent?
If the other parent does not consent, you can still move forward with the adoption process. However, you will have to ask the court to terminate his or her rights. To successfully terminate his or her rights, you will have to demonstrate that the other birth parent:
- Abandoned your stepchild
- Is an unfit parent
- Is not the biological father
If you want to terminate parental rights based on abandonment, you will need to prove that he or she has not provided financial support or communicated with the child for a specific period of time. If you are terminating based on a parent being unfit, the court will look into whether he or she is neglectful, abusive, addicted to substances or fails to visit. You may pursue the final option if the other birth parent was the presumed father — generally because of marriage — but is not actually the child’s biological father.
Is this the right decision?
Every family has to decide what is right for them. Some families consider themselves closely bonded with one another even though they may not be legally related to one another. Others want the protection that making things official — such as through adoption — can provide.
It is important to understand that adoption is not just a legal process — it is an emotional process as well. You may have to deal with some difficult ups and downs when you decide to adopt. While this can be disconcerting, learning more about the adoption process specifically regarding stepchild adoptions may help put your mind at ease.