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The idea of a “traditional” family unit has been changing for a long time now.  People have found that by being adaptive and accepting of change, they can pursue what makes them and others truly happy.  For example, blended families have become more popular and commonplace as people build a new life after a divorce.  In certain situations, stepparents may decide that they want to adopt their stepchildren.  This is most commonly the case when one of the biological parents is not involved in their child(s) life.  We are not just referring to visitation or seeing them on the holidays, absent parents often fail to contribute financially by way of child support.  It is important to remember however that even an absent parent does not automatically lose their parental rights or obligations in Utah.

Things to consider with stepchild adoption

Essentially when someone adopts a child, they are transferring all parental rights from the biological parent to someone else who is willing to take on the care of a child and all that comes with this responsibility.  The easiest way to move forward with adopting a child is to have the consent of the biological parent, who is willing to sign the proper documentation.  The benefit to them is that they are no longer responsible for the care of their child or children.  The potential negative effect is that they no longer have any parental rights and cannot legally enforce seeing their children or have any say with how they are raised or where they live.

Decide if Adoption is Right for your Situation

As we stated above, every family is different and things that work for one situation may not work for others.  There is a good chance that you have seen the popular videos online where a stepchild presents their stepparent with adoption papers.  These happy, tear-filled moments are things that bring us joy as a family law firm in Utah.  However, it is a good idea to really evaluate where things are with your new family.  For example, if you and your current spouse do end up divorcing after you have had a stepparent adoption, you are legally obligated to care for your stepchildren.

Working with the Biological Parent

As with many family law cases, the ease and timeframes are often decided by those involved.  The biological parent needs to sign a consent or waiver of rights.  This will terminate the parental rights that he or she has to the child and transfers them to the stepparent.  Don’t be discouraged if they are absent or unwilling to sign these papers.  It is still possible to move forward with the adoption, but the procedures and guidelines vary on a state by state basis.  For example, some states require a written letter by the biological parent.  Other states mandate an in-court appearance by the biological parent.  And some states require the biological parent to attend certain classes or undertake education so they understand their rights before they can waive them.  It is highly recommended that you have an experienced attorney on your side.  If you live in Utah and are considering adopting your stepchildren call Burton Family Attorneys at (801) 393-1106 to learn more and schedule a consultation.

Visit Utah’s Court Website to learn more about guidelines: https://www.utcourts.gov/howto/family/adoption/stepchild/

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