Introduction to Adoption by a Stepparent in Michigan

Stepparent adoption is a legal process that allows a custodial parent’s spouse to adopt their child. Whether the biological parents are divorced or were never married, this process can formalize the stepparent’s role in the child’s life. Here’s what you need to know about stepparent adoption, its permanency, and how to navigate the process.


Understanding Stepparent Adoption

Stepparent adoption enables your spouse to become a legal parent to your child. This process begins when the new spouse files a Petition for Adoption along with other necessary forms. Once granted, the adoption is permanent. The child’s other parent will lose all custody and parenting time rights, will no longer be responsible for child support, and will have no other obligations towards the child. The stepparent, on the other hand, will gain full parental rights and responsibilities that remain intact even if you and your spouse divorce in the future.

Termination of Parental Rights

Before a judge can approve a stepparent adoption, the other biological parent’s rights must be terminated. This can happen in one of two ways:

  • Voluntary Termination: The other parent agrees to relinquish their parental rights.
  • Involuntary Termination: The judge terminates the other parent’s rights without their consent, based on specific legal criteria.


If the Other Parent Agrees to Adoption

The process is most straightforward if the other parent consents. They must sign the necessary forms in front of a judge or referee, thereby voluntarily giving up all parental rights to the child.


If the Other Parent Doesn’t Agree

If the other parent does not consent, their parental rights can still be terminated involuntarily. For this to happen, the following conditions must be met:

  • The custodial parent (who is married to the petitioning stepparent) has sole or joint legal custody by court order.
  • The other parent has not provided financial support for the child for two or more years.
  • The other parent has not visited or contacted the child for two or more years.
  • The other parent had the ability to support and the opportunity to visit or contact the child during this period.

The petitioner must provide clear and convincing evidence that these conditions are true to succeed in involuntary termination.

When the Child is Over 14 Years Old: If the child being adopted is over 14 years old, their consent is also required. The child will need to sign a Consent to Adoption by Adoptee form, confirming their agreement to the adoption.


Starting the Stepparent Adoption Process

Some local courts may require that you and your spouse have been married for at least one year before filing a Petition for Stepparent Adoption. While this is not a state-wide requirement in Michigan, it’s important to check the local court rules.

Stepparent adoption is a significant legal step that reinforces the stepparent’s role in the child’s life. While the process can be straightforward with the other parent’s consent, contested cases require thorough preparation and legal expertise. At Stimpson & Associates, we are here to provide the support and guidance you need throughout this journey.

Source: Michigan Legal Help