The most common form of adoption is by stepparents who are willing to assume financial and legal responsibility for their spouse's child or children and to release the noncustodial parent of parental responsibilities, including child support.
State Laws Vary
Most states have a streamlined process for adoptions by stepparents, whereby the judge hearing the adoption petition has the ability to dispense with the requirement for a home study. Some states, however, will not approve a stepparent adoption unless the custodial parent has been married to the stepparent for one year or longer.
Required Consents to Adoption
When a stepparent wishes to adopt a stepchild, the child's parents (the stepparent's spouse and the noncustodial or absent parent) are usually both required to consent to that adoption. In consenting to an adoption, the noncustodial parent relinquishes all parental rights and responsibilities, including child support. If the noncustodial parent objects to the proposed adoption and refuses to consent to it, state laws may prevent the adoption from proceeding.
Some state adoption laws specify special circumstances under which the noncustodial parent's consent is not required. Other states have made special provisions in their adoption laws to allow stepparent adoptions to occur, even over the objections of the noncustodial parent in cases where the noncustodial parent has failed to maintain communication with the child for a specified period of time.
Steps for Stepparents Wishing to Adopt
1. Check out your state adoption laws regarding stepparent adoptions.
2. Contact the court in your county that handles adoptions.
3. Obtain required legal forms.
4. Submit required legal paperwork.
5. Await notification of a court hearing date.
6. Appear at the hearing.
7. Finalize the adoption.
8. Apply for amended birth certificates.
Source: National Adoption Information Clearinghouse