A Comprehensive Guide to Navigating Stepparent Adoption

Stepparent adoption is a legal process that allows your spouse to adopt your child, formalizing their role as a parent. This article outlines the steps, requirements, and considerations involved in stepparent adoption to help you navigate this important decision.


Understanding Stepparent Adoption

Stepparent adoption enables your spouse to become the legal parent of your child. Unlike other forms of adoption, there is no specific duration that your spouse must have been in a stepparent role before initiating the process. However, you must agree to the adoption, and if the child’s other parent consents, the procedure is generally more straightforward. If the other parent does not consent, the process can become more complex and may require legal assistance.

The Permanent Nature of Stepparent Adoption

Once approved by a judge, stepparent adoption is permanent. The child’s other parent loses all custody and parenting time rights and is relieved of child support obligations. Your spouse will assume all parental rights and responsibilities, which persist even if you and your spouse later divorce.

Initiating the Adoption Process

While Michigan law does not mandate a specific duration of marriage before filing for stepparent adoption, some local courts may require you to be married for at least one year.

Before starting the process, your spouse should gather the following documents:

  • Certified copies of birth certificates (for the child and both birth parents)
  • Certified copy of your marriage certificate
  • Certified or true copies of all divorce decrees involving the birth parents
  • Certified copy of a previous spouse’s death certificate, if applicable
  • Certified or true copy of any Affidavit of Parentage or Order of Filiation for the child
  • Certified copy of any child support order for minor children
  • Certified copies of any guardianship, name change, or prior adoption orders affecting any party
  • Certified copy of the child support history from the relevant county


Parental Rights Termination: The termination of the other parent’s parental rights is a prerequisite for stepparent adoption. This can occur either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Voluntary Termination: If the other parent consents to the adoption, they will need to sign the required forms in front of a judge or referee, voluntarily relinquishing their parental rights.

Involuntary Termination: If the other parent does not consent, your spouse must prove that terminating their rights is justified. This involves demonstrating that:

  • The parent married to the petitioner has sole or joint legal custody.
  • The other parent has failed to financially support or contact the child for at least two years.
  • The other parent had the ability to support and contact the child during this period.

Child’s Consent: If your child is over 14 years old, their consent is also required. The child must sign a Consent to Adoption by Adoptee form.


The Court Process

Investigation and Report: Once your spouse files the petition, the judge will appoint an investigator, usually from the court or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), to examine the case. The investigator will assess your child’s family background and whether the adoption is in the child’s best interests. They have three months to file a report, after which a court hearing will be scheduled within 14 days.

The Hearing: If the other parent consents, they must appear in court to sign the consent forms, relinquishing their parental rights. The judge will ensure that the consent is genuine and that the adoption serves the child’s best interests, taking the investigator’s report into account.

Contested Cases: If the other parent contests the adoption, an evidentiary hearing will be held. Your spouse will need to present evidence to justify the termination of the other parent’s rights. Given the complexity of contested cases, legal counsel is advisable.


Stepparent adoption is a significant legal step that solidifies your spouse’s role as a parent. While it can be straightforward with the other parent’s consent, contested cases can be challenging and may require legal assistance. At Stimpson & Associates, we are here to support you through this process.

Source: Michigan Legal Help