In Florida, the process of legally adopting stepchildren is accomplished when the stepparent meets a certain set of criteria and has completed and filed the appropriate forms. In addition, the birth parents must either give up or have their parental rights terminated before the adoption is finalized. The procedure is possible without legal counsel, but it is highly recommended that prospective adoptive stepparents seek legal counsel prior to initiating the process.
Who Can Adopt
Stepparent adoption is one of several types that are possible in Florida, and it is among the most common types of adoption nationwide. A person may legally adopt his spouse’s children. Regardless of an adult’s relationship with a child, the Florida Bar Association urges those interested to become fully educated about some of the potential complications for the adoptive parents and the adoptee. In Florida, such adoptions are usually permitted when the child’s other biological parent decides to give up his parental rights to the new stepparent.
When To Adopt
Florida law is written in a way that is intended to consider all involved, but nothing can be done until the biological parent gives up her parental rights or has them terminated. On top of it all, children over the age of 12 in Florida must consent to a stepparent adoption. If those criteria are met, the process can begin. In most cases of adoption, a home study must be completed before the child can be adopted. This rule does not apply to stepparent adoptions, however.
How To Adopt
The Florida Bar Association recommends that interested stepparents who feel that they meet the guidelines should seek the help of an attorney. The Association calls the process complicated and joyful at the same time. Before the process can start, the birth parent's rights play a major role. Once all of the proper notifications for consent are issued and received, the next step can begin. A stepparent interested in adopting his spouse’s children may prepare and file the appropriate forms, which then leads to a hearing. In the case of a stepparent adoption, there is no mandatory waiting period for finalization. Once the birth parent gives up or loses his rights, the stepparent may officially adopt the child.
To become the official parent of the spouse’s child in Florida, the adoption must be finalized. The process can only be completed before a judge. The final hearing requires the physical presence of the adoptive parent, or if approved, she may participate over the telephone. Paperwork approving the potential adoptive parent’s ability to care for the child must be submitted by a social worker, and any other proof that she is willing and able to adopt will be presented at that time. Once adoption is awarded through the courts, the stepparent will then be named as the birth parent on a new birth certificate, and the child’s last name may be changed to match the new adoptive parent. Full legal and financial responsibility is then given to the new parent, and the process is complete.