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Questions about Stepparent Adoption Laws

Being a stepparent does not always give you the same rights as those of a biological parent. This can not only make it stressful for the stepparent but can also lead to questions about the laws regarding stepparent adoption. Below are five of the top stepparent adoption questions answered by Lawyers on JustAnswer.

If a child is adopted, would the adoption affect the child’s eligibility for benefits if the biological father is deceased?

Once the child is adopted, the child would normally not have any survivor benefit rights from his biological father. The Social Security Administration would no longer recognize the survivor benefits for the child.

In a stepparent adoption in Colorado, would the biological grandparents lose their rights?

Colorado law gives grandparents a window to petition the court for visitation rights. Under C.R.S. 19-1-117, a grandparent can petition a Colorado family law court for reasonable grandchild visitation rights in the following situations:

1) The grandchild's parents have obtained a dissolution, annulment, or legal separation
2) The child has been placed into the legal custody of someone other than a parent, or
3) The child's parent, who is the child of the grandparent seeking visitation, has died.

Visitation by grandparents is subject to conditions. When grandparents petition the court for visitation, you can ask that it be supervised, or that the biological father have no interaction with the child during periods of grandparent visitation. Grandparents do not get the right automatically. But if they petition the court for it, it would be reasonable for these conditions to be stipulated.

If someone wants to adopt a child in South Carolina, would the biological parent need to be located first?

Stepparent adoptions can be a little tricky if the biological parent’s whereabouts are not known. In most cases, the absent biological parent must give up all parental rights before an adoption can take place. If they cannot be found then the courts can make a ruling of child abandonment if you can prove to the court that every attempt has been made to contact the absent parent. The local family court can give you the forms you need to fill out for a stepparent adoption and the process can anywhere from 6 months up to a year.

Can an absent parent in New Jersey consent to non child support in exchange for allowing a new stepparent to adopt their children?

You can make an agreement with the parent paying support that in exchange ("Consideration") for their voluntarily surrendering their parental rights and not objecting to or interfering in the adoption, all claims to past/present/future support are being waived. You would do this as part of a written agreement to voluntarily terminate parental right, and this can be submitted with the adoption forms.

If someone is unable to locate a biological parent in the state of Virginia, can the adoption by the stepparent continue?

In most states the answer is yes. The court upon motion by you would grant alternate service by publication. The court order is published in the newspaper, and they may appoint an attorney for the absent parent. The court hears the matter and likely grants the termination/adoption. But you will have to convince the court you have done due diligence to locate father—by post office, phone book, newspaper, etc. You will need to obtain a lawyer to draft a termination /adoption petition, motion here and affidavit of due diligence, and go to court to get an order for service by publication. The last step would be a final hearing on termination and adoption.

There are legal implications of being a stepparent that aren’t obvious to most of us. At times, this can lead to questions about the legal rights and standing of a stepparent. One way to resolve these questions is to ask a Family Lawyer on JustAnswer. You can get specific answers to your situation quickly, and the Experts can point you in the right direction.
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