Congratulations on deciding to formally adopt your stepchild or stepchildren. Taking the necessary legal steps to protect and provide for your spouse’s children is a great thing to do. As you solidify your family and its dependents, you may be wondering what the stepparent adoption process is like. Here are a few things to know about stepparent adoption laws in New York:
Private placement adoption
According to New York courts, there are two types of adoption: agency and private. A private placement adoption is “any adoption that is not an agency adoption.” What this means is there’s no third party, or agency, that will be overseeing the adoption. The private adoption of your stepchild is filed in Family Court or Surrogate’s Court. As a stepparent married to your stepchild’s biological parent, you will not need to go through the typical 18-month pre-certification process. Your adoption can take effect immediately after a court decision.
What changes after adoption
When you legally adopt your stepchild, a few things can happen:
- You may have your stepchild’s name changed to reflect the new family name, if applicable and desired
- You will be issued a new birth certificate, certifying you as the parent of the stepchild
- Your stepchild will be eligible for inheritance, if applicable
- You will have the same parental rights as your spouse
Barriers to stepparent adoption
If your stepchild has another living parent aside from your spouse, they may present an obstacle to adoption. However, if the court has determined the other parent to be unfit, then your adoption case will be less complex. If your stepchild’s other parent wants to prevent you from adopting their child, but has not paid child support or been an active participant in the child’s life, you may need to fight the issue in court. Keep in mind that the court may side with the biological parent and give that parent an opportunity to repair the relationship with their child. However, if the biological parent continues to neglect the child and not make any meaningful attempts to maintain a relationship, it will build your case for adoption. On the other hand, some biological parents want nothing to do with their child and are willing to sign over parental rights to an active stepparent. You should consult with a New York stepparent adoption lawyer if you know your stepchild has another living parent so you can get help navigating this complex issue.
What to expect from the process
The amount of time and effort it will take to complete the stepparent adoption process will vary depending on your unique situation. Some stepparent adoption cases take a matter of weeks while others drag on for years. What’s important is that you’ve made the decision to adopt your stepchild or stepchildren, and you’re committed to seeing the process through.
What happens if I adopt my stepchild and get divorced from their parent later on?
This is an interesting area of stepparent adoption. In some cases, you may have been involved in your stepchild’s life since the early days and feel much more like a parent than a stepparent. Thus, you may want to share custody or have visitation rights with your stepchild or stepchildren. Or you may have only been involved for a short period of time, but you’re now left wondering how issues like inheritance, health insurance, last names and other changes will be impacted. If you’ve worked with a stepparent adoption lawyer from the beginning, they will be able to easily navigate your case and assist you with the transition. If you have not worked with a lawyer before, now is a good time to start.