Some forms required for stepparent adoptions are fairly universal and are similar from state to state. In general, your spouse must consent to the adoption, the child’s other parent must consent, and sometimes, if she is over the age of 12, the child must consent as well. The exact procedure usually depends on whether the other parent has consented. It’s advisable to at least speak to an attorney before you tackle the process to be sure you’ve met all the requirements for your particular state.
Affidavits of Consent
In instances where the child’s other parent is willing to have his parental rights and responsibilities severed to clear the way for you to adopt, he would sign an Affidavit of Consent and a waiver of his rights. In some states, he might also be required to appear before a judge or magistrate and give his consent verbally, under oath.
If you do not know where the child’s other parent is in order to gain her consent, some states will allow you to simply post a notice in the newspaper, advising her of your intention to adopt her child. If she doesn’t respond, the court might waive the requirement of her consent. You would have to file a request for the court to grant this waiver, along with proof of publication.
Affidavit of Diligent Effort
Other states might require you to exhaust every possibility of finding the child’s other birth parent to gain his consent. In this case, you would have to file an affidavit listing all the efforts you have made to locate him, usually called an Affidavit of Diligent Effort. List all the steps you took to find him.
Affidavit of Abandonment
If the child’s other parent refuses to consent to the adoption, you have one last option. Some states will sever her parental rights anyway if you can prove that she has not been in touch with the child for a considerable amount of time, usually at least one year. When this is the case, you must file an Affidavit of Abandonment, stating the facts of the parent’s estrangement from the child. Ultimately, the judge will have to rule on whether or not to allow the adoption to go through anyway.
Petition for Stepparent Adoption
When you have filed all the signed consents, including your spouse’s and, if necessary, that of the child, file an official petition with the court to request the adoption, along with a petition to simultaneously terminate the other parent’s legal relationship with your stepchild.
Though all states have similar forms for the stepchild adoption process, they may have different official names in other jurisdictions. If you explain to the court clerk the intent of what you want to file, she can guide you to the name of the form in your state. There are also several Internet legal sites where you can purchase the forms applicable to your state. Some states also have legal adoption forms available on their own websites for download.
Some states require stepparents who wish to adopt to undergo a criminal background check, and federal law dictates that you submit to fingerprinting. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 requires your fingerprints to be run through national databases to check for any past record of child abuse. Some states, such as Colorado, require you to also fire proof that this has occurred and that you have no such record.