Adoption Requirements for a Spouse's Child

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Although individual states establish their own laws regarding adoption of a spouse's child, the basic process is similar in most jurisdictions: both biological parents must consent to the adoption and the case must be heard by a family court judge. Once a stepparent adoption is finalized, the new parent has full rights to his or her spouse's child and can make legally binding decisions for the minor.

Spousal Consent

The biological parent who is married to the adopting spouse must consent to the adoption in writing. This consent does not affect this parent's rights to the child; it simply affirms that they agree that the spouse should also become a legal parent to the child.

Noncustodial Parent's Consent

The child's other biological parent must consent to the stepparent's adoption. The family must attempt to locate that parent's whereabouts before the adoption may proceed. If the identity of the child's biological father is unknown, the mother must sign an affidavit attesting to this. Once the noncustodial parent consents to the adoption and it is accepted by the court, his or her parental rights are terminated under the law.

Child's Consent

If the child is able to understand the proceeding, the court may ask him or her to sign a written consent to the adoption. When the child is too young to understand the meaning of adoption, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to assess whether the adoption is in the child's best interest. The family court judge may also choose to appoint a guardian ad litem if the child expressed conflicted feelings about the adoption and has an established relationship with the noncustodial parent.

Adoption Petition

The biological parent and stepparent must jointly file a petition for adoption in the jurisdiction where they currently reside. The petition must outline the basic demographic information about the biological parents, the stepparent, and the child. At the time of filing, the family should also provide all consents executed up until that point, the parents' marriage certificate, and a copy of the child's birth certificate.


The stepparent and his or her spouse must attend a hearing before the court will issue a final adoption decree. Unless the adoption is contested or the court has concerns about whether to grant the adoption, the hearing is usually brief and ceremonial. In most jurisdictions, at the end of the hearing, the judge will sign a final order of adoption. The family can use this final adoption decree to request a new birth certificate for the child and modify their wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents.


About the Author

Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.

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