They may call you “Mom” or “Dad,” but that does not carry any legal weight. Formal adoption of your spouse’s children from a previous marriage is a big step, with many benefits but also permanent responsibilities. We discuss all ramifications of stepparent adoption with our clients. In the event of your death, your stepchildren will inherit from you only if they have been legally adopted. And in the event of divorce, you would be required to provide child support and education for adopted stepchildren.
If your new spouse’s “ex” is not involved in the child’s life and is willing to consent to the adoption, the process is relatively simple. If the natural parent does not consent, we will have to commence termination of parental rights proceedings, which can become a legal battle. For children over 14, the court will also consider whether the child wants to be adopted by the stepmother/stepfather.
The state does not like to make children wards of the state. When it is in the best interests of the child, the state prefers to have orphaned, abandoned or abused children adopted by a blood relative. We assist next of kin (aunts/uncles, grandparents, even adult siblings or cousins) who have assumed parental responsibility in legally adopting a child or sibling group. This protects the children by establishing inheritance rights and support obligations, and prevents them from being placed in foster care or adoption outside the family. If the natural parents have died or are unable or unwilling to care for the child, we can take care of the legal matters to enable a safe, loving, and permanent home.
In foreign adoptions (outside the United State or its territories), you are essentially adopting twice. First, you must adopt the child in their home country. Then you must formalize the adoption here in the United States. We guide clients through the long and complex process, cutting through bureaucratic barriers and handling any immigration or foreign travel issues.
In domestic adoptions (through an adoption agency or by private arrangement), there are many potential pitfalls and points to consider. Will it be an open or closed adoption? Under what terms can the mother rescind the adoption? Will you provide financial support or health care during the pregnancy? We carefully draft or review adoption agreements to avoid heartbreaking conflicts or legal disputes down the road.
It can sometimes by awkward when siblings have different last names. The court perceives a benefit to children sharing a common surname, but name changes can be contested. We handle name change petitions, with or without adoption.