In order for a stepparent to adopt a stepchild, the biological parent, if living, must consent to the adoption. Since this consent indicates that the biological parent relinquishes parental rights, gaining consent can be a difficult part of this process. In some cases the biological parent may waive their parental rights, including visitation, decisions about medical care and education, without significant resistance, seeing that an adoption would be in the best interest of the child. Child support payments are no longer required when a stepparent adopts a child.
According to the online resource adoption.com, step parent adoptions are the most common form of adoption and the process is often much easier and can be completed in a shorter period of time than other types of adoption. Some issues which may impede the process or lengthen the amount of time it takes to complete the adoption are: law variations from state to state; whether or not a homestudy will be needed; how long the biological parent and the step parent have been married (this is different in different states); and other factors.
Some issues to consider are the feelings and thoughts of the biological parent. Without true consent, the process of adoption will not go smoothly or quickly. When a stepparent adopts a stepchild, it may result in a change of surname. This is significant both in the life of the stepchild and in the life of the biological parent. While all financial responsibilities are severed between the biological parent and the child, or children, so, too, are all legal relationships with the biological parent's family members, including grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.
You need to consult with an attorney to find out about the specific requirements of your state, and go through the process of changing the child's or your children's legal documents, including their school and medical records, passports, Social Security cards and even the birth certificate which will be amended to list the name of the stepparent in place of the biological parent. Also, in most states the adoptive stepparent must be at least 18 years of age and married to a biological parent.
The decision to adopt a stepchild is, for all intents and puposes, a permanent one. It is not a simple process to undo. According to the Sacramento County Public Law Library, "Stepparent adoption is a permanent transfer of parental rights and responsibilities. Once a stepparent adoption is finalized, it cannot be revoked or nullified, except in very rare situations, such as serious legal defect, fraud, or mental illness or disability discovered within 5 years of the adoption."
Some may assume that without the consent of the biological parent a stepparent may not adopt their stepchild. This may not always be true. On the website of D. Winkler Law Offices LLC in Ohio, there is a statement that "the consent of the noncustodial biological parent may not be necessary where the biological parent has either failed to communicate with the child or financially support the child, without justification, during the 12 months immediately preceding the filing date of stepparent's adoption petition." Of course these issues may vary from state to state, so it is crucial to check into your state's requirements before the process begins.
By checking the resources listed here you will find a great deal of information about the process of stepparent adoption. As you will note, the obligations of the stepparent also give the stepparent legal rights to his pr her stepchild or stepchildren that may greatly benefit them. In cases where a biological parent has been mostly absent and/or non-compliant with child support payments, the stepparent adoption may be in the best interest of the child and the entire family unit.