A stepparent adoption occurs when a spouse, who is not the biological parent, adopts the legal child of his or her spouse.
Although adoption is generally a long process, stepparent adoption in Florida can be relatively quick, especially when both legal parents consent to the adoption.
An uncontested stepparent adoption in Florida can be completed in as little as 3 months.
In Florida, a homestudy, a study performed to ensure a potential parent can provide a child with a safe and secure home, is not required for stepparent adoption.
Adoption is a major decision that has serious legal consequences. The other legal parent who consents to the adoption terminates all his/her parental rights over his/her child in favor of the stepparent.
A decree of adoption also terminates all legal relationships between the adopted child and the relatives of the other legal parent who is not married to the stepparent.
On the part of the stepparent, a legal bond of filiation is created with adoption, and thereafter, the stepparent will be financially responsible for the education and care of the child.
Even if the stepparent and his/her spouse (who is the biological parent of the child) divorces, the stepparent will still have the financial responsibility to care and support the adopted child.
For all intents and purposes, an adopted child is a child of the stepparent and can inherit from the stepparent’s estate upon the latter’s death.
As parents, it’s very important to consider these consequences when deciding whether it will be for the best interests of the child if he/she is adopted by the stepparent.
Under Florida Statute 63.042, the stepparent may adopt unless he/she possesses a physical disability or handicap, and the court or an adoption entity has found that such disability or handicap results to the incapability of the stepparent to serve as an ineffective parent.
Generally, the stepparent files the petition to adopt and is joined by his/her spouse, the legal parent of the child. In this petition, the stepparent provides the names of his spouse’s children who he/she seeks to adopt with a certified copy of the birth certificates. The stepparent states how long the children have resided with him/her, his/her personal details, and when the stepparent married the parent of the children.
The persons required to consent in a petition for adoption are the legal parents and the child, if 12 years of age or older. Since the spouse is already joining the stepparent in the petition, then the other legal parent’s consent is the other consent needed in order for the adoption petition to proceed quickly.
The other legal parent’s consent is required for stepparent adoption in Florida only if: (a) the minor was conceived or born while the father was married to the mother; (b) the minor is his child by adoption; (c) the minor has been established by a court proceeding to be his child; (d) he has filed an affidavit of paternity pursuant to Section 382.013(2)9c) of the Florida Statutes; or (e) in the case of an unmarried biological father, he has acknowledged in writing, signed in the presence of a competent witness, that he is the father of the minor, has filed such acknowledgement with the Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health within the required timeframes, and has complied with the requirements of section 63.062(2) of the Florida Statutes.
If the other legal parent does not give his/her consent, a joint petition for termination of parental rights and adoption may be filed by the stepparent. Florida Statute 63.087(3). The adoption petition will not proceed until the petition to terminate the parental rights of the other biological parent is granted. In this case, it is wise to secure the services of counsel and not proceed pro se because it will require legal knowledge to prove that the other parent’s consent is not required to proceed with the adoption petition.
Some instances when the other biological parent’s consent for a stepparent adoption in Florida can be waived are: (a) when the parent has abandoned the child; (b) when the parent’s rights have already been previously terminated; or (c) when the parent has been declared incompetent and is not likely to get better. Above list is not exhaustive, and there are other grounds that can be raised to request the court to waive the consent of the other legal parent. It is important to consult with a Florida attorney to discuss one’s options when the other legal parent would not or could not give his consent.
If consent has not been obtained, the stepparent must serve the stepparent adoption petition to the interested parties (generally, the other legal parent). Service can be made personally, by mail, hand delivery, or constructive service. Constructive service (publication) is resorted to when all efforts have been utilized to conduct an actual diligent search for the other party, and yet, is still unable to locate them. In that case, a motion and application for search of the putative father registry is required.
If all documents are complete, the clerk of court can schedule the stepparent’s adoption hearing. In this hearing, both petitioners (the stepparent and the spouse who is a parent of the child) should attend. If the child is 12 years and older, the child’s attendance is also required. This hearing is relatively straightforward if no objection is made. However, if there are objections from the other legal parent, the case can last longer.
Once a decree of stepparent adoption is granted by the judge, it is wise for the stepparent to order at least 7 certified copies of the judgment. This will be given to the Department of Vital Statistics in the state where the child is born so the birth certificate can be amended, the other parent for purposes of stopping child support orders and changing insurance, the school, the Social Security Administration, and any other government agency.
A stepparent adoption is typically not an expensive legal procedure, especially uncontested ones. Still, the petition requires observance of strict legal formalities, and for this reason, it is advisable to consult a Florida lawyer to ensure that all processes have been observed for the grant of the stepparent adoption petition.
Should you ever need to consult an adoption lawyer, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin, are here for you. You can call us at 1-800-600-8267 or send us an email at [email protected].