Step Parent Adoptions Q&A
- My husband and I have been married for 10 years. I have an 11-year-old son from a previous boyfriend. Can my husband adopt my son?
Yes and no. Adoptions can be a bit complicated. You must make sure you meet all of the requirements in order to obtain one. If you do not, it will be thrown out.
- If my son’s biological father’s rights have been terminated, is it easier for my husband to adopt him?
Absolutely. In fact, your husband will not be able to adopt him unless the biological father’s rights are terminated. When your husband begins the adoption process, you will need sufficient proof that the biological parent’s rights have been terminated. The other option is to go through the termination process during the adoption. Keep in mind that this will likely be a much longer procedure.
- The biological father’s rights were terminated when my son was born. Do I need to include him in the adoption proceeding?
No. This will make the adoption process go by much quicker. You will need to make sure that you have proof and documentation that the biological father’s rights were terminated. This will need to be provided to the court if you want the adoption to go through.
- If the biological father’s rights were not terminated and he is still the legal parent, can I terminate his rights?
This depends. A court will not terminate a parent’s rights just because you want them terminated. There are very specific requirements that must be met before any rights are terminated. You would need to show the court that the biological parent has neglected, abused, or abandoned the child through failure to support and maintain reasonable contact. You could also show the court that the biological parent is unable to parent due to a mental illness, lack of mental capacity, or chronic drug and alcohol abuse. Also, you can show if the parent has been incarcerated for a reason proving unfitness, no paternity has been established, a parent consented to an adoption, their rights were terminated for another child, or their whereabouts have been unknown for three months after searching for him or her.
- So if the biological father signs a consent form for my husband to adopt my son, I don’t have to do anything else?
You will still have to go forward with the stepparent adoption, but the biological parent’s rights will be terminated with that consent form. It will make the process significantly easier for you.
- What if the biological father refuses to sign a consent form? What can I do?
If he refuses to sign the consent form, then you must prove to the court that he meets the requirements answered in question 4. If he does not meet any of those requirements or you are unable to prove to the court he meets those requirements, your husband will not be able to adopt your son. The courts are very hesitant to just terminate a parent’s rights without good reason. They will always look to what is in the best interests of the child. There likely will be a guardian ad litem appointed to your case to investigate the ongoing issues, if any, and determine if it is in the child’s best interest to terminate the parent’s rights.
- If the biological father’s rights are terminated, what do I need to do for the stepparent adoption to move forward?
You must file a Petition for a Stepparent Adoption in the juvenile court. Since there is no biological parent, you do not need to serve anyone or give anyone notice. Additionally, because this is a stepparent adoption, you can avoid a number of steps that would be required in a regular adoption.
- What happens after I file the Petition?
Once the Petition has been filed, you will likely receive an initial court date. Before you attend your hearing, there are a number of items you must get together and provide to the court.
First, make sure that the stepparent obtains a finger print clearance card. These can sometimes take up to ten weeks to get. This should be the first thing you take care of. Once he receives the card, you can file a copy of it with the court.
You also will need to provide copies of your marriage certificate and the child’s birth certificate to the court. They need to make sure that you and your husband have been married for at least a year and the child has been around your husband for at least 6 months.
Since the biological father’s rights have been terminated, make sure you file a copy of any termination paperwork and court orders with the court. The juvenile court may not have a record of this.
Your husband will also need to be cleared by DCS. They must complete an adoptive families central registry records clearance form. It is then mailed to DCS who will review your husband’s file to see if there are any alerts. They will send you a completed form, which you will need to file with the court. You should also do one for yourself, as well.
Also, make sure, as the legal parent, you complete a “consent” form signing and notarizing the document, in which you provide your consent for your husband to adopt your son.
Last, you will need to complete what is called an Affidavit of Compliance. This document needs to be signed and notarized by your attorney, or you and your husband, stating that you have complied with the Arizona Statues for this adoption proceeding.
- Once everything has been filed, what do I need to bring to the hearing?
Make sure both you and your husband attend the hearing. It is also advised that you bring your child with you. If the judge grants the adoption, the court will want to take a family photo of everyone. The judge will ask basic questions during the hearing, such as the child’s birthday, do you consider the child to be yours, does the child call you dad, does mom approve of the adoption, etc. If the judge believes the adoption is in the best interests of the child, the adoption will be granted.