Some Arizona residents who have remarried or married someone with children start to think about adopting their spouse’s children if they develop a strong relationship with them. If this sounds like you, realize that you must follow specific steps to do so.
Obtaining consent from the children’s other parent
The adoption process for stepchildren is often easier than for other adoption types, as you won’t need home visits and adoption hearings. The courts often waive these steps to speed up the process of a stepchild adoption. Obtaining consent from the other birth parent is the most significant obstacle you may face. The consent process is often difficult because for you to adopt your stepchildren, the other parent must give up all legal rights. However, in some cases where birth parents do not have a relationship with their children, those individuals may realize that giving up their rights is better for their offspring.
What if the birth parent does not consent?
If the birth parent does not consent, you may be able to terminate their legal rights under several circumstances. You must be able to prove one of the following:
- Abandonment, meaning the birth parent has not communicated with or provided support to the child
- Unfit parent, including abuse, neglect, substance addiction and similar circumstances
- Not the presumed father, by showing the person whose name is on the birth certificate is not really the father
Navigating Arizona’s laws
You will also need to follow the state’s laws before you can legally become your stepchild’s parent. You must be married to your spouse for at least one year and have lived with your stepchildren for at least six months. Additionally, any children over age 12 must consent to the adoption.
Not initially obtaining consent from the birth parent isn’t the end of the adoption road, but it can lengthen the process considerably. Terminating rights through court appearances is often more successful if your spouse can prove that child support has remained unpaid and other issues exist between the birth parent and the children.