Metairie Step-Parent Adoptions
Blended families are becoming more and more common, in Louisiana and elsewhere. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, half of all marriages in the United States ends in divorce, and three-quarters of those who divorce end up remarrying. Consequently, half of American children under the age of 13 live in a household with one biological parent and one un-related adult. Most parents work hard to blend their families into one unit, and one way to help accomplish that is through adoption.
Why Adopt Your Step-Children?
There are many reasons why adopting one’s step-children might be the best option for a family.
First, adoption creates a legal relationship between step-parents and children, allowing the step-parent to care for the children in the same way as the biological parent. Without written permission from a biological parent, step-parent may not be able to pick the children up from school or daycare or obtain medical treatment. The step-parent may not have access to school or medical records.
Step-children are not considered legal heirs of a step-parent. Unless the step-parent has a will, step-children may be in an unequal position if the step-parent dies.
If a couple divorces, the rights of step-parents to visit their step-children is not automatic, as it is for biological parents. In many cases, children may not even know the other biological parent, and consider the step-parent as a mother or father. Separating step-parents and step-children after a divorce can be devastating for both the adult and the children.
Finally, adoption may serve to strengthen the family’s bonds, especially when the adults have children together. Often, when a family contains step-children as well as biological children, the step-children may feel as if they don’t belong, or somehow inferior.
The Process For Adopting A Step-Child
Maintaining a relationship between children and their parents is considered a top priority in Louisiana, as in all jurisdictions. Severing a legal relationship between a parent and a child is not done lightly, so the first step in adopting a step-child is to contact the parent. The custodial parent and the step-parent are joint petitioners in the adoption process, and the child must have lived with the custodial parent and step-parent for al least six months before a petition can be filed.
After an adoption petition is filed, the court may order a home study, just as in a regular adoption, While it may seem strange for the biological parent, the home study will assure the court that there is no abuse or neglect.
Before a step-parent adoption can take place, the consent of the non-custodial parent is required. If consent cannot be obtained, the court must terminate the parental rights of the non-custodial parent. Once given, consent to an adoption may not be revoked. Therefore, Louisiana requires the consenting parent to undergo counseling before giving final consent for an adoption.
The petitioners must convince the court that they have made every effort to locate the non-custodial parent before the court will terminate parental rights. However, if the non-custodial parent has refused without good cause to comply with court-ordered child support obligations for six months or more, or has failed to exercise visitation rights or contact the child for six months or more, the court can terminate parental rights.
If the parent has been given notice and fails to file an objection to the adoption within the specified period of time, the court can terminate parental rights. If the non-custodial parent objects to the adoption, a hearing will be held, and the court will consider whether adoption is in the best interests of the child, despite the parent’s objection.
Legal Consequences of Adoption
After the adoption is completed, the step-parent will have the same legal relationship to the child as the biological parent. The child’s name may be legally changed to the new parent’s name if the parties choose to do so. Any child support obligations of the former non-custodial parent will cease, and the child and former parent will no longer be related for inheritance purposes.
If the parties divorce, the new parent will have the same rights and obligations with regard to child custody, visitation, and support as the biological parent.
How Can A Family Law Attorney Help?
The process of adopting a step-child can be complicated. A Metairie adoption attorney can guide you through the process, and make sure that all legal requirements are met. Your attorney will make sure the requirements for notifying the non-custodial parent are met, and if the non-custodial parent consents to the adoption, your attorney can prepare the necessary consent forms. The process of filing the petition, preparing for a home study and preparing for the final hearing will be less stressful with an experienced family law expert by your side. Attorney Candice Bennatt can answer your questions about step-parent adoption. Call her today at 504-777-3500 for a confidential consultation.