“Can I adopt my spouse’s child?”
“Can I adopt my domestic partner’s child?”
“What is the process for a stepparent adoption?”
These are common questions that we get at Eques, Inc, and I wanted to provide a brief overview of the topic.
First, in Ohio, to qualify for a “stepparent adoption”, the Petitioner (the one seeking the adoption) must be married to a parent of the minor to be adopted for at least one year prior to filing the adoption certificate. Often, partners who have been in a committed relationship for a long period of time, but who are not married, will wonder if they can adopt the other person’s child, and currently, Ohio law does not permit this because to do so would terminate the natural parent’s parental rights as well.
Under Ohio Revised Code Section 3107.03, the following individuals may adopt in Ohio:
- A husband and wife together, at least one of whom is an adult
- An unmarried adult,
- The Unmarried minor parent of the person to be adopted,
- A Married adult without the other spouse joining as a petitioner if the following apply:
- The other spouse is a parent of the person to be adopted and supports the adoption,
- The Petitioner and the other spouse are separated,
- The failure of the other spouse to join in the petition or to support the adoption is found by the court to be by reason of prolonged unexplained absence, unavailability, incapacity, or circumstances that make it impossible or unreasonably difficult to obtain either the support or refusal of the other spouse.
The second step, arguably the most important issue in a stepparent adoption, is obtaining the consent of the other biological parent or proving it is not necessary. Because only two people can be parents of a child in Ohio, the adoption of a child by the stepparent terminates the rights of the other natural parent (the one who is not the spouse of the Petitioner). For this reason, their consent must be obtained in order to proceed with adoption unless the Petitioner proves, and the Court finds, by clear and convincing evidence that the other natural parent has failed to provide more than “de minimis” (minimal) contact with the child or has failed to provide for the child’s maintenance and support for a period of at least 1 year before the filing of the adoption.
If consent is obtained, the third step is preparing and filing the Petition for Adoption with the help of a licensed attorney. This petition will include certain biological information about the parties and the minor to be adopted and must include a certified copy of the birth certificate of the child, all required consents, and accountings. Some stepparent adoptions will require only a final accounting of any expenses paid in the adoption, others will require both a preliminary accounting and a final accounting. This is often just the attorney fees and court fees for the adoption. Accountings are required in every adoption in Ohio.
If the child is 12 or older, they will also have to consent to the adoption at the hearing.
Other procedures for stepparent adoption depend on the County in Ohio. Most counties do not require an assessment (also known as a home study) to be conducted of the home where the Petitioner lives, but in some cases, this will be required. In most cases, a stepparent adoption will only have one hearing, to finalize the adoption. The Judge or attorney will ask questions of the stepparent and biological parent, to establish that the adoption is in the best interests of the child, and to ensure all consents were filed and accountings were filed. Then, the adoption will be finalized, an order for a new birth certificate will be authorized, and the stepparent adoption will then be listed on the child’s birth certificate as the parent! The child’s name can be changed during the adoption, if desired, as well, but does not have to be changed.
If you are interested in pursuing a stepparent adoption, contact Eques, Inc today for the representation you deserve!
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice, nor should be construed as providing legal advice or establishing an attorney-client relationship.