Being a stepparent comes with many new rights and responsibilities, as well as the joy of raising a child. For some stepparents, this also means considering whether to adopt a stepchild as your own. This decision is a significant one, both for the parent and child, and requires a careful consideration of family circumstances and legal requirements. It is our primary goal to help you evaluate your options and make the best choice for your new family.
Under Florida law, stepparent adoption occurs when a married stepparent adopts his or her spouse’s child from a prior relationship or marriage. Depending on the nature of the child’s relationship with their biological parents, stepparent adoption can proceed quickly or can be a complicated process. The first step is for the stepparent to file a petition for adoption with a Florida Circuit Court. Once this petition has been filed, the absent parent of the child must be given an opportunity to oppose the petition. If the absent parent does not oppose, the court will consider whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child. If it believes adoption to be beneficial, the court can grant the petition for adoption and a new birth certificate will be issued for the child.
If a child’s other parent is in regular contact with the child and is not absent from the child’s life, a stepparent must obtain consent from that parent before a stepparent adoption can be completed. If the parent refuses to consent, or cannot be found, the stepparent and his or her spouse may attempt to terminate the parental rights of the other parent. This may also be an option where an absent parent opposes an adoption. Termination of parental rights is a very serious decision and must be treated carefully. Under Florida family law, termination is possible under three different circumstances:
the parent has abandoned or deserted the child;
a father has not registered his paternity with Florida’s Putative Father Registry prior to the action to terminate his rights; or
the parent has been declared incompetent and restoration of competency is medically unlikely. If termination is successful, the stepparent can then proceed with adoption.
In Florida, children over the age of 12 must also agree to the adoption. To show consent, the child signs a Consent of Adoptee form, which is an affidavit confirming his or her age and agreement to the adoption. It also confirms the child’s consent to change his or her last name to that of the adopting parent, and declares that the child is aware that the adoption results in becoming the adopting parent’s legal child and heir at law.
If a stepparent is successful in their petition to adopt their stepchild, they become a full legal guardian of the child before the court, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. They are required to provide the same financial and emotional support to the child as the birth parent and will be held accountable for such responsibilities. As such, stepparent adoption is not a process that should be taken lightly. A qualified Florida family law attorney is best suited to help stepparents decide if adoption is the best option for them.
At The Law Office of Knellinger, Jacobson & Associates, Gainesville, FL, our firm has the experience and expertise to guide your family through this often difficult process. You can be certain that we will take time to learn more about your family, your unique circumstances and ensure that the adoption proceeding is done in the most efficient manner possible. To discuss how we can help you, call or e-mail our family law office for a free phone consultation or to schedule an appointment.
The Law Office of Knellinger, Jacobson & Associates provides legal advice and representation for individuals, entrepreneurs, and business owners in Gainesville, Florida, and communities throughout north central Florida, including cities such as Ocala, Starke, Palatka, Lake City, Middleburg, Trenton, Bronson, Lake Butler, Cross City, Williston, Chiefland, Alachua, Jasper, Live Oak, and Jacksonville, Florida.
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