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All in the family: Stepparent adoption

You met a very special person, and while you were nervous about dating someone who had a child, you grew to love the child as much as the parent. When you proposed marriage, you knew you wanted to spend the rest of your life with your loved one and his or her child. Perhaps your marriage vows even included your dedication to the child.

Time has passed, and your bond with your stepchild has grown stronger. In fact, there may be days when you feel like the child has always been a part of your life. You may not say it aloud, but you get a secret thrill when your stepchild slips and calls you Mommy or Daddy. Maybe now is the time to make that happen.

Consent

If you have wondered about the possibilities of adopting your stepchild, you probably already know that it isn't always an easy process, especially is your stepchild's noncustodial parent is still in the picture. Family courts dedicate themselves to keeping children connected with their biological parents whenever possible, so if the other parent is a devoted and active participant in the child's life, you may not be doing the child a favor by pursuing adoption.

Gaining consent of the noncustodial parent is the first hurdle to jump. Without consent, the court may not grant your request to adopt. An indifferent or uninvolved parent may have no problem signing away all parental rights to clear the way for your adoption. However, even if such a parent refuses, the court may consider allowing the adoption to proceed in certain circumstances, such as when the parent shows little interest in the child or makes no effort to remain in contact with the child on a regular basis.

The adoption process

Of course, your spouse must agree to the adoption, and if the child is a certain age, the court may require his or her consent as well. When all parties have consented, your case will proceed according to the laws of Kentucky's family courts. Typically, these steps will be next:

  • You will obtain the appropriate information and forms from the proper court in your county.
  • You will complete and submit the forms to the court. For these first two steps, you would be wise to accept the assistance of an experienced attorney to ensure the documents are handled properly.
  • The court will notify you of the date for your hearing with a family court judge.
  • During the hearing, the judge will question you to get a sense of your fitness for the adoption.
  • The court will set a date to finalize the adoption.

At this final hearing, you will receive the certificate of adoption. You can obtain several copies, and you can also request to have your child's birth certificate amended.

Since your future with your stepchild is in the balance, you will certainly want every advantage when you complete your paperwork and meet with the judge. A family law attorney will be your best asset in this situation.

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