Orlando Stepparent Adoption Attorney
Adopting Your Stepchild
The stepparent adoption process starts with a court evaluating if the stepparent is legally able to adopt in the state of Florida. If the individual is married to the birth parent, and proves to be a competent and capable parent, the stepparent should be able to legally adopt.
The majority of individuals are eligible to adopt, with the exception of those with physical disabilities or handicaps which may prevent him or her in their abilities to effectively parent.
The court will determine if the birth parent’s rights can be terminated with or without the consent to the adoption. Hiring an Orlando family law attorney is suggested to help make the process go smoothly.
Am I Eligible To Adopt My Stepchild in Orlando?
Adopting your stepchild means that you will have the same legal rights as any other parent. To adopt your stepchild, you have to meet Florida’s eligibility requirements.
These eligibility requirements are determined by Florida law (Fla. Stat. 63.042), which stipulates that any person wanting to adopt a child must prove that they are able to provide proper care to a child.
Realistically, most individuals would be considered eligible under Florida law provided that they do not have some physical disability that makes it impossible for them to be effective parents. As an example, a person who is bedridden wouldn’t be able to adopt their stepchild.
You may also be ineligible to adopt if you have a serious criminal record, or if there is a history of child abuse or neglect.
What You Should Know About Filing An Adoption Petition in Orlando
The process of filing for Orlando step-parent adoption begins with a petition. This includes information about the child, a statement about how long the stepparent has lived with the child, and the reasons for wanting to adopt.
Additionally, since you’re looking to become a stepparent, you do need to obtain consent from the absent parent. This requires termination of the absent parent’s rights, meaning that the absent parent will no longer be required to pay child support and will no longer be allowed to make decisions for the child.
If the absent parent does not consent or cannot be located, the court must terminate their rights, which only happens in cases of abandonment, child abuse, or substance abuse.
With all of this, the court will determine what is in the best interest of the child. If the child is 12 or over, this can be done with an interview.
Ultimately, the point of an adoption is to ensure that the child is in the best situation possible—and to ensure that the stepparent can provide the child with the sense of stability that they need.
Why a Family Lawyer Can Help
While some stepparent adoption cases are quickly filed and processed, others may be more complicated as unforeseen issues may arise. If the absent parent refuses to give consent to the stepparent adoption, a termination of parental rights may be filed. Family law cases can become complicated and drawn out, and having a lawyer who is educated in the procedures and skillful with handling adoption situations will accelerate the process.
Representing yourself may seem like the easier and less expensive route, but ultimately having legal representation from the beginning is less costly than trying to overturn a ruling.
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Adoption and Divorce
After the stepparent’s adoption of his or her spouse’s child is legally approved by the court, the responsibilities of the stepparent to the child are the same as the birth parent, even in the case of divorce. After the breakdown of the marriage, the stepparent is required under law to pay child support, as his or her name is on the birth certificate as the child’s legal guardian. The child support payments will last until the child is eighteen years old.
Depending on the specifics of the case, and the judge, the stepparent may also be obligated to pay alimony to the financially weaker spouse.
Terminating Parental Rights
Before a stepparent can legally adopt a spouse’s child, the birth parent must have his or her rights terminated. The termination of parental rights can be based on different scenarios. If the birth parent is absent, neglectful, or abusive, a petition to terminate parental rights can be filed. If a parent is incarcerated, for either a long sentence or even frequent short sentences, the court may determine the parent as absent.
Additionally, if a formal written surrender is executed by the birth parent, in which he or she voluntarily waives any rights to the child, the rights can be terminated.
Contact Us Today
You’ve spent a long time with your stepchild and already feel that parental bond. But legally, you still have some work to do if you want to have the same rights as any biological parent.
The legal system isn’t necessarily easy to figure out on your own, so if you want to get started on this process, it’s a great idea to call an Orlando stepparent adoption attorney like us who is experienced with the stepparent adoption process.
We have spent many years working with families, so we know about your rights and responsibilities as the stepparent and can help you work through the entire adoption process. Let us help you with the proper procedures, any petitions you must file with the court, and of course, representing you in adoption hearings as well.
Our goal is to help you build a strong family and provide you as the stepparent with the ability to help make the best decisions for your child. Contact our Orlando law firm today to learn about what we can do for you and how we can help you through the process.