It’s common for stepparents to want to adopt their stepchild. In fact, this is the most common form of adoption. Once the process is complete, the stepparent will have the same rights as the biological parents. This process isn’t necessarily easy, especially if the adoption is contested. This is why you should hire an experienced stepparent adoption attorney.

Let’s have a look at the difference between an uncontested adoption and a contested adoption.

Uncontested Adoption vs. Contested Adoption At a Glance

You might have an incredible bond with your stepchild, but until you’ve adopted them legally, you don’t have full parental rights. However, some states will allow you to adopt independently, without the usage of an agency. In this case, you might be able to adopt if it’s an uncontested adoption.

Uncontested Adoption

An uncontested adoption means that the biological parent is willing to cooperate with the adoption process by signing away their parental rights and providing written consent for the process. 

In this case, the stepparent will gain full parental rights, but the biological parent will no longer be required to pay for any child support.

This may be one of the reasons why they’re willing to agree with the adoption, or they feel that the adoption is what’s best for the child.

Contested Adoption

On the other hand, a contested adoption is where the biological parent contests the stepparent’s request to adopt. This happens after the petition for adoption has been served, and after they’ve had 20 days to object. 

If they do not object within these 20 days, the court may automatically grant the adoption. However, if they do object, the process will continue until the court makes a decision.

What To Do In a Contested Adoption

Even though you might be excited about the adoption, the biological parent might not be. Although they might not be very involved in the child’s life, it’s possible that they won’t agree to give up their parental rights.

No matter the reason, in this case, you’re dealing with a contested adoption wherein you need a judge to waive the biological parent’s consent. You will need to go to court, and meet with your adoption attorney to figure out what you will do next.

Your attorney will work with you if you decide to move forward with the adoption, filing to terminate the biological parent’s parental rights and waiting for the judge to rule.

This entire process may result in depositions, requests for documents, and orders to attend mediation to see if you might be able to reach an agreement. 

Ultimately, the judge will either rule that consent is not needed and you can go ahead without the adoption, or that consent is still required.

Winning a Contested Adoption

If the judge rules that consent of the biological parent is still required, this means that you will not be able to go ahead with adoption. To prevent this outcome, you’ll want to try your best to win a contested adoption.

Unfit Parent

If the biological parent does not consent, you or your lawyer can provide proof that the parent is unfit to parent, has abandoned the child, or is otherwise unable to fulfill their duties as parent.

Proving the parent as unfit means stripping them of their involvement in their child’s life permanently. You can do this by showing that they have a drug addiction, are reckless, or have a history of domestic violence.


Proving abandonment is more complicated and depends on the state and on the age of the child. For example, some states require proof that the absent parent didn’t support the mother in the last months of her pregnancy, while others begin after the child is born.

Look up the requirements in your state and consider whether the absent parent meets the legal requirements of abandonment.

This may also apply if the biological parent is incarcerated too. If they will be imprisoned for much of the child’s life, or if they’re imprisoned for sexual assault or other related crimes, a judge will likely overrule their rights.

Welfare and Safety

If you can prove that the biological parent has acted in a way that threatens the physical or mental health of the child, this is also grounds for winning your contested adoption. 

You’ll need to show a willful disregard for the child, with enough incidents to prove it’s not an isolated case. This is something to think about, especially in cases of abuse.


It’s, unfortunately, possible that an absent parent will contest your petition for adoption. In this case, you will need a lawyer to help you take the case to court. Rest assured that there is a way through this process, and know that not all adoptions are contested. Even if it is contested, you’re still a crucial part of your stepchild’s life, and have many options for what to do next. 

Emily A. Konicek

Emily A. Konicek

Emily A. Konicek brings 14 years of experience to your family law concerns. Emily excels at mediation, negotiation and litigation, and can help you pursue a course of action that helps you meet your goals for the future and for your family.