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What makes stepparent adoption different?

As a stepparent in Pennsylvania, there are many reasons why you may wish to adopt the children your spouse has from a previous relationship. While stepparent adoption is quite common, the process is a little bit different than it would be if you were adopting a child previously unknown to you, more complicated in some ways and less complicated in others.

According to FindLaw, one of the most important steps in a stepparent adoption is to obtain the consent of the child's other birth parent. The only situations in which this step is not required are when the other birth parent is no longer living or when the law no longer recognizes the other birth parent's parental rights. By consenting to your adoption of your stepchild, the other birth parent forfeits all parental rights and responsibilities. Some birth parents may be reluctant to consent to this, complicating the adoption process. 

However, even if the other birth parent does not give consent to the adoption, it may be possible for the courts to terminate his or her parental rights involuntarily if you can demonstrate to the court that the birth parent is unfit, has abandoned the child or is not the child's biological parent. One or more of the following may serve to classify a parent as unfit:

  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Neglect
  • Abuse
  • Incarceration

The court may also deem a birth parent unfit if he or she exhibits a mental disturbance or has failed to visit the child.

Once you have cleared the hurdle of obtaining consent from the other birth parent, the stepparent adoption process may be fairly easier than other types of adoption. Because the child already has a relationship with you, the court may streamline the process by waiving the usual adoption requirements, such as the home visit.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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