When people hear the word “adoption,” they usually think of people going through an agency and sometimes even crossing state or country lines to adopt a child. However, adoption isn’t always like this. If you are a stepparent who seeks to adopt a child you’ve had a hand in raising, you can certainly do so with the help of an experienced New Mexico adoption attorney.
Before you decide whether stepparent adoption is a possibility for your family, here’s what to consider.
The Rights of the Biological Parent Have to Be Terminated
You can’t adopt your stepchild without the termination of the biological rights of the other parent. This termination happens in one of two ways: the biological parent is consenting to it and appears in court to sign this consent in front of the judge, or the court terminates these rights without the approval of the parent.
Whether the biological parent will consent to your adoption is going to be specific to your circumstances, and the answer here will impact how the adoption progresses. If, for example, the biological parent isn’t going to consent, the court will have to decide whether their rights are to be terminated. This means you may have to give the court evidence that supports the termination.
Naturally, the adoption becomes a lot harder if you need to terminate the rights of a parent challenging the adoption. If you think you may need to have the court terminate the other parent’s rights, speak to an adoption attorney right away.
Wait One or Two Years Before Starting the Process
You will have to meet many requirements before your stepparent adoption is approved by the court. However, if you wait until you’ve been married to the child’s parent for one or two years before you begin the adoption process, you may avoid some of the more time-intensive adoption steps. Once you’ve been married for more than one year, you can bypass the typical pre-placement study required in adoptions. This study includes medical record gathering, reference letters, home visits and personal interviews. You can also bypass the post-placement study, which is a follow-up after an adoption is finalized. If you and the child’s other parent have been married for at least two years, neither of you have to attend counseling sessions in many cases.
There Are Some Required Counseling Sessions
Since stepparent adoption brings legal and emotional effects, there are some required counseling sessions to work through the emotions of the adoption by the parents and child. Stepchildren aged ten and older must also go to counseling with a qualified professional. A biological parent agreeing to terminate their rights may also have to go to counseling first. You and your spouse will need to go to counseling if you haven’t been married for at least two years.
Even if counseling isn’t required in your adoption, it may still be worth it to speak to a counselor. People sometimes struggle to discuss adoption with extended family members, and a counselor can offer guidance and suggestions in this area.
Fingerprinting and Background Checks Are Required
Even a stepparent has to submit their fingerprints to the Children Youth and Families Department for a background check. This will include any reports of child neglect or abuse made to the department and your criminal history if any.
If you want to adopt your stepchild and your spouse agrees, contact an adoption attorney today. Adoption laws are complex, and everything needs to be done correctly for the process to run as smoothly as possible.