Step-parents share something very special with their adopted children. They have made a deliberate choice to parent their stepchild and have purposefully accepted the rights and responsibilities that come with parenting.
Adopting your step-child is a responsible and loving way to protect your child and your relationship. Formally legalizing your relationship is important to both show your child you are here to stay and to legally protect your rights. By formalizing your status as a legal parent of your stepchild you will have the right to make decisions on her behalf, such as giving permission for school services or programs and medical decisions. Becoming a legal parent protects your rights if your spouse dies or in the event of a divorce. Without the formal legal relationship, if something should change in your relationship you run the risk of having to fight your spouse or possibly the extended biological family for custody. The legal process of a step-parent adoption protects your child in other important ways. Your legally adopted child will be eligible to inherit from you, even if you do not have a will, and is entitled to social security survivor’s benefits.
A step-parent adoption typically takes only a few months and should not be extremely costly. You will need an attorney to prepare the court documents and to help you obtain the biological parents’ consents to the adoption. Your spouse keeps all her same rights as biological parent when consenting to your adoption of their child. The court will determine whether the other biological parent (your spouse’s ex) must consent to the adoption or whether that parent has lost his legal rights (abandonment) to the child and his consent is not required. If the child is 14 or older, he/she must also consent to the adoption. You will be fingerprinted and a background check with be made with the state central child abuse registry to determine whether you have any disqualifying criminal convictions or a record of abuse or neglect of a child. You will also need a home study report, prepared by a social worker to determine whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child.
Once your paperwork is completed and the court finalizes your step-parent adoption, an amended birth certificate will be issued naming you and your spouse as the legal parents of your child. You may determine whether to change your child’s legal name at the time of the adoption and it will be reflected on the new birth certificate. It would be our privilege and pleasure to help you with this process. Feel free to call (914) 420-6163 or email us.