In some cases, a stepparent may decide to adopt a stepchild. If you are in that position and you live in Indiana, you can complete the adoption process without too much difficulty. Although adopting your stepchild is not necessary for a loving relationship, it does offer legal and emotional benefits for all parties concerned. Of course, the decision is not one to be taken lightly. After you make the decision carefully, you can move forward with the process.
Learn if your stepchild is eligible for adoption. You can adopt your child in Indiana if the biological parent to whom you are married has sole or joint custody of the child or if the other parent has voluntarily given up legal custody of the child. You can also adopt if the other biological parent has died or lost his/her parental rights in a legal case.
Get consent from the other biological parent. Before the adoption can proceed, you must get written permission from the other parent. This consent must be given in the presence of a notary or of an authorized government agent or in court. The adoption will sever their parental rights completely so they may not give consent easily. In Indiana, you do not need consent if you can prove the other parent is unfit, has had little or no communication with the child for one year, has not supported the child financially for at least one year, and/or has abandoned the child for at least six months.
File the adoption petition. Your lawyer will prepare the documents you need to file. In Indiana, these documents must be filed through the Superior or Circuit Court's Family Division in your county of residence.
Complete the legal procedures. After you file the paperwork, you will have an adoption hearing. If the court agrees to permit the adoption, the petition will be finalized. Your stepchild will receive a new birth certificate including your name as the parent.
Meet residence requirements. Before you can petition the courts to adopt your stepchild, you need to be a resident of Indiana for at least six months.
Discuss your adoption plans with the child if his or her age permits. This decision will have a lasting impact on your stepchild so you should talk to them about their wishes.
Ensure you can prove paternity if the child’s biological parent is not listed on the birth certificate. For fathers who were not identified on the birth certificate, they will need to prove their paternity before the stepmother will be allowed to adopt the stepchild.
Do not pursue stepchild adoption if the biological parent has not given permission unless you have grounds. If the father or mother does not want to relinquish their parental rights and has been paying child support, staying in contact with the child, and is not unfit, the Indiana courts will not permit the adoption.