Adoption is often regarded as a complex family law process due to the numerous legal steps involved. Stepparent adoption, on the other hand, is sometimes considered the simplest form of adoption because one parent is already the biological parent of the child. In order to complete a stepparent adoption, the person adopting the child must be the legally-recognized spouse or domestic partner of the child’s mother or father.
An unforeseen roadblock may stand between a stepparent trying to adopt their stepchild: the separated-by-divorce biological parent that still has child custody rights. Imagine the scenario of a woman divorcing her husband and getting joint custody rights of her daughter. She goes on to remarry, and her new spouse wants to adopt her daughter through stepparent adoption. That girl’s biological father has not done anything to lose joint custody rights – so what happens?
Peaceful Agreement, Or Petition to Terminate?
Let’s assume that you are the stepparent trying to adopt your stepchild, but the other parent from your spouse’s previous marriage is still holding onto child custody rights. Despite the divorce dividing that family legally, you can’t complete your stepparent adoption until those custody rights are surrendered. You are free to talk to your stepchild’s parent about your desire to gain custody rights – legal, physical, or both – and they may very well accept your offer. After all, once you have the other half of custody, they will likely be excused from other court obligations as well, such as monthly child support payments, without losing visitation rights.
If they do not want to give up their custody rights, you are in for a legal battle. You need to create a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights and file it with the appropriate family law court. This legal petition asks the court to sever to previous parent’s custody rights without their consent, opening the door for you to create a Stepparent Adoption report. When this petition is made, if the named parent can be located, they will be notified that you are trying to assume their custodial rights, which gives them the chance to contest. Both you will need to present arguments to the court.
To help you prepare for what can be a difficult and heated legal process, contact Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich today. Our Murrieta family lawyers, who also serve clients throughout Riverside and Temecula, can either help you piece together a valid, sound argument, or we may even be able to represent you at your petition hearing and speak on your behalf. Call (951) 506-6654 to schedule a complimentary case review.