Massachusetts law allows step-parents to adopt their spouse’s child under certain circumstances through an independent adoption. The first step in the adoption process is to file a petition in probate court. If the non-custodial biological parent consents then the court will simply finalize the adoption if the step-parent is eligible to adopt. Ineligible step-parents include those who have not lived in the state for more than six months.
If the other parent contests the petition, then asking the court to terminate the parental rights of the other biological parent is the next step. Termination of parental rights is allowable if the absent parent deserts the child or is deemed incompetent. Evidence of either of these facts must be presented to the court.
It is important to note that same-sex parents can have a step-parent adoption because same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts.
Overall, the step-parent adoption process is much simpler than that of a standard adoption. Home studies and involvement by child protective services are not required. After completing the adoption, the absent parent’s name is replaced by the step-parent’s on a new birth certificate.
There are certain legal consequences of step-parent adoption that should be considered. For example, if the step-parent and parent divorce, the step-parent may be ordered to pay child support.
Step-parents have very few legal rights when it comes to their step-child. This is especially a concern if the other biological parent is out of the picture and a significant part of child-rearing falls on the step-parent’s shoulder. For example, step-parents who adopt have the right to make educational and medical decisions that they would not be able to otherwise.
Additionally, adopting a step-child is an emotional decision. If you have interest in finding out more about step-parent adoption or beginning the adoption process, please contact us to discuss your situation.