Step-parent adoptions are the most common form of child adoptions. These adoptions are usually simpler and quicker than other types of adoptions because many states forego the home-study and the waiting or adjustment period. Some states require the custodial parent be married to the step-parent for at least one year before the step-parent can file to adopt the spouse’s children. The custodial parent cannot file the request, or petition, for the adoption, only the step-parent can do that.
The first move in a step-parent adoption is familiarizing yourself with your state’s adoption law. This may be done as easily as hiring a lawyer that specializes in adoptions or family law or you may choose to do your own research and look up the adoption law yourself. Some states require the adopting parent to be represented by a lawyer, so be sure to find that information out as well. Another point to take into consideration when deciding on a lawyer is, lawyers are able to search for cases similar to yours and see what the judges decided in those cases and determine if that case would be of assistance in getting your adoption approved.
The second step in a step-parent adoption is contacting the court system. You need to find out which court takes care of adoptions. This may be juvenile court, family court, or surrogacy court, depending on your state. The court clerk will be able to provide this information to you, free of cost. Once you find the proper court for adoptions, you need to request adoption information paperwork. Some courts have this pre-packaged and ready to mail to you immediately and some do not. If your court does not have this information pre-packaged, make sure you find out whether you need to be represented by a lawyer during the proceedings and where you can get copies of all the legal documents you will need.
The third step in a step-parent adoption is obtaining and completing the proper legal forms. If you have hired a lawyer for this procedure, he or she will be able to obtain and assist you in completing the legal forms. If you decide to do this on your own, the court that you contacted in the second step will tell you where to obtain the legal forms. Then you fill them out with all the relevant information. I recommend hiring a lawyer for this whole procedure because legal forms can be very confusing to someone who is unfamiliar with the law.
The fourth step is submitting the paperwork to the proper authorities. If you hire a lawyer, this step will be completed by him or her. If you choose to do it yourself, make sure you know exactly where to turn the paperwork in. You wouldn’t want to be waiting for a long time only to discover that you turned your paperwork in to the wrong court worker and it subsequently got lost. You would have lost all that time, work and money already invested and would have to redo the paperwork.
The next step is often the longest and most stressful step, whether you hire a lawyer or not. Itis waiting for your hearing date. You are usually required to attend this hearing. This date is decided upon the judge’s schedule, your lawyer’s schedule (if you have one) and the court calendar. Your schedule is rarely taken into account because you are the one requesting this change and are expected to take off work whenever notified of a court date.
The next step, obviously, is to attend the court hearing. Court hearings are used to question the parties involved, usually to let the judge decide whether this adoption has been fully considered and if the child is old enough, to let him or her tell the judge how he or she feels about the adoption. Your attorney, if you have one, will tell you how the adoption hearings go in your county and will prepare you for the judge’s questions. At the end of this hearing, the judge will set a finalization date if he or she believes the adoption is in the best interest of the child.
The seventh step is to finalize your adoption. Your lawyer will tell you if you are required to attend this hearing. Most families choose to attend this hearing because it is somewhat of a celebration for them since it completes their family. At the end of the finalization hearing, you will receive copies of the adoption documents. You may want to request extra copies to show the school system and the government for a new Social Security card, birth certificate, etc.
The eighth and final step is to get the proper identification documents with the child’s new name. These are usually the birth certificate and Social Security card. The court clerk will send in paperwork for your child’s birth certificate to be changed at the Department of Vital Statistics. After a predetermined waiting period, usually 30 to 60 days, you may apply for the amended birth certificate. You will have to pay a fee for this document. Once you receive the birth certificate, you can apply for the new Social Security card. Both of these documents usually take four to six weeks to arrive after you have completed the application.