When someone enters a new relationship with someone who already has children, the individual has the option to advance a stepparent adoption. This is the process of becoming the new legal parent of the children to match the new relationship status. However, this is not a decision that anyone should make lightly. There is a ton of emotion that a child can already be dealing with when a divorced parent enters a new relationship. The prospect of formalizing the new parent-child relationship should be weighed on a case-by-case basis to ensure that it is the right thing for all parties involved.
Consider these factors before advancing with a stepparent adoption.
The Child’s Wishes
The most important aspect of a potential stepparent adoption to consider is what the child feels comfortable with. If you do not have a clear understanding of their perspective on the topic, you should not advance with the adoption until you do. Take the time to engage in an open and honest conversation with how the child feels about the new individual in their life and what they think about the potential adoption.
The child may share they are feeling scared, confused, or even cautious about allowing someone new into the family. This is a normal reaction and does not mean that they will not one day welcome the idea of being adopted in time. However, their anxieties could be relieved by taking the time to have a serious conversation on the topic. This could change their nervous energy to excitement. Regardless, make sure you have a full sense of what the child is thinking and wanting before officially advancing with the adoption.
The Level of Involvement From The Biological Parents
A child’s relationship with a biological parent can be an extremely sensitive topic to a child, especially if their other parent no longer cares to keep any sort of relationship with their past spouse. Because each child will have a varying degree of involvement with their biological parent, it’s something that needs to be fully understood before a stepparent adoption is initiated. For children who do not have a relationship with the other biological parent, the new stepparent adoption can provide missing stability and security.
However, it might be pushing a child’s boundaries to seek a formal adoption when they need more time to understand how their new family unit will operate. Alternative custody options such as co-parenting agreements or even a legal guardianship can be a solution in those situations where a child is not ready to be adopted.
Adoption is not free of charge. There are a ton of legal expenses and background checks to verify that the adoption adds value to all of those who are involved. If money is tight or the funds used for adoption would take away from other areas of the child’s life, such as their education or medical care, consider putting a pause on the process until you are financially comfortable. The entire process of adoption should put minimal unnecessary disruption on a child’s life, so ensuring that they will be financially supported in the short and long term must be prioritized in this transition.
Questions To Ask A Potential Stepchild
Mutual understanding between a child and their new stepparent cannot be underestimated. Taking the time to ask questions to empathize with what each other is thinking can make a huge difference in the development of the new relationship. Asking these questions could help:
- What are your thoughts and intentions with this family?
- Why do you enjoy spending time with this family? What about me?
- Is there anything top of mind that is worrying you?
- How can I make you feel at ease during this new family transition?
- Are there any traditions or routines that you would like to continue in this new family dynamic?
- How do you feel about me adopting you?
- How can I help you achieve your future hopes and dreams?
Approaching these conversation questions with empathy and patience can make a huge difference in helping each other to express feelings authentically.
Q: What Are the Benefits of a Stepparent Adoption?
A: There are many similar benefits derived from a traditional parent-child relationship that can be found in a stepparent adoption. This includes a legal recognition of the family relationship that can strengthen the family bond and give a child a stronger sense of security and belonging. Outside of the emotional benefits, the stepparent can also step in to make education or medical decisions. This can be a huge benefit to the non-stepparent who may want the help of their new partner to step in and make these decisions when needed.
Q: Is an Adopted Child Still a Stepchild?
A: Many will be happy to learn that after adoption, there is no reason to keep referring to each other as a stepchild or stepparent. The new legal connection that has been established gives both parties the authority to make this shift in how they address one another. Of course, there is no legal mandate to change your own language within the household, so make sure it’s something that the child is ready and willing to do.
Q: What Does It Mean When a Stepparent Adopts a Child?
A: When a child is officially adopted from a stepparent, they now assume all legal responsibilities that the original biological parent had. The new parent will be able to make legal decisions on behalf of their opinion on what is right for the child’s well-being. It’s a highly trusted position that cannot be entered lightly. It’s more than just a change in someone’s vernacular, which is why it’s highly recommended to work directly with a stepparent adoption attorney to have a full picture of what this will mean for the family and how one can be prepared to take on the role without major disruption.
Q: Can My Stepdad Adopt Me If I’m 30?
A: Yes, a stepdad can adopt a “child” that is 30. However, the requirements may differ for someone adopting an adult stepchild versus a minor. For example, the only consent needed is from the 30-year-old child being adopted. There is no longer any legal requirement to have additional approval from their biological parent. These scenarios are often seen to formalize a pre-existing relationship that is going well or for other reasons, such as future inheritances or to secure legal decision-making.
Contact the Law Office of Stephanie J. Squires Today
If you are ready to make moves and inquire about the prospect of stepparent adoption, connect with the Law Office of Stephanie J. Squires today. With a rich history in family law, attorney Stephanie J. Squires is dedicated to helping families build strong and secure futures through adoption. Contact our office today to learn more.