Stepparent adoptions can be a relatively easy and straightforward way to make your new family complete. Here's a guide of what to expect in Indiana.
1. Talk with a Family Lawyer
Don't forget to consult with a lawyer before you being the process for guidance on what to expect. In Indiana, stepparents must submit to a criminal background check or undergo a home study by a court-approved agency. Parents are also required to disclose certain medical history information.
2. Obtain Consent from the Other Biological Parent
When the other parent consents, a step parent adoption is a much smoother process. With a stepparent adoption, the non-custodial parent must consent to giving up their parental rights. This may be a difficult choice for the parent. So the biological parent and stepparent must be prepared for the other parent to mentally wrestle with the decision. By allowing the stepparent to adopt their child means giving up all rights to caring, raising or making decisions concerning the child.
3. Consent from the Child.
In Indiana, children above the age of 14 must also consent and file a written consent to the adoption. Children above the age of 14 will also want to attend the adoption hearing.
3. Terminating Parental Rights for the Non-custodial Parent
If the non-custodial parent refuses to consent or has abandoned the child, a stepparent may still be able to adopt. Under certain circumstances including abandonment or conception by way of a criminal act .
Abandonment refers to the parent not communicating with or support the child financially. The parent and stepparent are showing that the non-custodial parent doesn’t meet the legal definition of a parent.
4. Both biological parents must receive notice of the adoption.
Upon notice, the non-custodial parent has the right to object to the adoption and attend the hearing opposing the same.
5. Attending the Hearing
Either a magistrate or judge will preside over the hearing. He or she will asks questions of all the parties involved including the stepparent, biological parent and child. For instance, the judge may ask the child about interacting with the stepparent or why he or she wants the adoption. The court will also make sure that the adopting stepparent realizes and appreciates the duties and responsibilities of adopting the child -- such as the right of the child to inherit from the stepparent and the duty to pay child support in the event of a subsequent divorce. Prior to the hearing, your lawyer will prepare you on how to conduct yourself in court and what to say. At the end of the hearing the magistrate or judge will make a decision and oftentimes, a member of the court's staff will photograph your joyous moment with the judge!
6. Apply for New Birth Certificates
Once the adoption is finalized, parents are able to amend the child’s birth certificate to reflect the adoption. This means that the non-custodial parent’s name will be removed and replaced with the stepparent’s name, resulting in a brand new birth certificate.
Please call or email to discuss any questions concerning the adoption process.