As a stepparent considering adoption, you are likely already providing for your stepchild emotionally and physically. You have established a relationship with the child, and you want to take things to the next level by sealing that bond legally. There are some important factors to know before proceeding with stepparent adoption in Florida.
1. Make Sure Adoption Is Right for Your Circumstance
Adopting your stepchild is a tremendous responsibility that will impact everyone in your family. Discuss it with those involved, including your spouse, the stepchild, other children in the family, and perhaps even extended family members.
It’s easy to get swept up in the sentimental nature of adoption. However, it’s crucial to understand the legal ramifications. You and the child (if of sufficient age) should both comprehend the advantages and disadvantages of this type of legal procedure. For example, the biological parent whose role you are replacing will have his or her parental rights relinquished. This separation could be a great benefit if the parent is a negative influence or detrimental to the child in any way. But it also means that the parent no longer has financial responsibility for the child. As the child’s legal parent, you will become financially responsible for the child.
2. Having an Attorney Is Not Required, but It Is Recommended
You are not required to hire an attorney to adopt your stepchild. However, it can be a tedious and complicated process. Having an experienced Florida adoption attorney can move the process forward more quickly and smoothly. If you are confident in your ability to handle it yourself, make sure you understand all of the requirements for a stepparent adoption in Florida. Most people find it safer and easier to hire an attorney. In this case, you can contact us anytime to discuss your options. It is our privilege to work with families going through the adoption process.
3. You Need Permission From the Child’s Parents
The child’s parent whose role corresponds with yours must terminate his or her parental rights. In some cases, it may be difficult to obtain this permission. If you are in this situation, don’t give up. An attorney can prove very helpful in this type of circumstance. Every scenario is unique, so you should speak with an adoption professional if you find it challenging to obtain permission from the other parent.
4. It’s Not Free, but It’s Not Outrageously Expensive
Whether you hire an attorney or handle the process yourself, there are fees involved. It is not nearly as costly as a traditional private adoption. Furthermore, it is a much quicker process than a traditional private adoption. The exact cost varies depending on your circumstances and needs.
5. A Support System Is Valuable
Even if the legal process of adopting your stepchild is smooth and easy, it is a life-altering transition. Many people find it beneficial to have a support system in place to help navigate this change. You can reach out to close friends and family, look for community support groups in your area and find online resources for assistance. You are not alone, and you don’t need to go through this by yourself. Having a reliable support system will prove useful. Take some time to look around and locate resources that work best for you.
Choose an Experienced Adoption Attorney for Your Stepchild Adoption
Call 727-800-6681 to schedule a consultation with Tammi Driver, a Florida adoption attorney experienced in stepparent adoption.
Should I Adopt My Stepchild?
In order to answer this question, we need to look at the benefits of stepparent adoption.
Benefits of Stepparent Adoption in Florida
Ability to make important decisions
When you adopt your stepchild, you gain the right to make decisions that impact the child. This includes decisions related to education, medical treatment, and religious choices. Although your spouse may consider your input, if you do not adopt the child, you do not have the legal right to make these decisions. In fact, the other biological parent can block these decisions as he or she still remains the legal parent until his or her parental rights have been terminated and the stepparent adoption is final.
This brings up an important question:
Why would a parent relinquish their rights?
As stated earlier, the other biological parent must relinquish their rights in order for you to adopt your stepchild in Florida. There a few reasons a parent would be willing to do this:
When their parental rights are terminated, they are no longer financially responsible for the child. This is often a primary motivation for parents to willingly relinquish their parental rights. They are no longer “on the hook” for future child support payments.
Lack of a bond
Some parents simply never had a relationship with the child, and therefore, have no real bond. This makes it easier to relinquish their parental rights voluntarily.
Reduce influence of the non-custodial parent
Sometimes the other biological parent, not the one you are married to, is a negative influence on the child. Perhaps this person has caused the child pain and suffering over the years, whether emotionally or physically. When you adopt the child, that parent’s rights are terminated. This means that he or she will no longer have the right to be in the child’s life, thus reducing the negative impact on the child.
Maintain rights after divorce or death
If your spouse dies or you get divorced, you will remain the child’s legal parent after your spouse’s death or your divoce. This is a great sense of security for many stepparents. Upon death or divorce, you will retain parental rights to the child. So if your spouse dies, the child remains living with you and cannot be taken away just because the biological parent is deceased. If you and your spouse divorce, you will retain visitation or custodial rights. Once you adopt that child, you are in every legal sense, that child’s parent.
Once adopted, the child can receive inheritance or death benefits from you or your estate, along with any biological children of yours. The law treats the adopted child the same as a biological child.
Same last name
Oftentimes a stepchild wishes to have the same last name as other members of the family. Adopting your stepchild allows the child to legally change his or her last name so that it is the same as yours.
In summary, there are many benefits to adopting your stepchild. Most of all, adopting your stepchild demonstrates your love and commitment to the child and provides the child with a greater sense of security and stability. Whatever the reason may be, we are here to help.
Contact a Florida Adoption Attorney
Here at the Law Office of Tammi J. Driver, we are passionate about helping families grow. Contact us today for a consultation to see how we can help you adopt your stepchild in Florida.
Call (727) 800-6681.