Understanding Stepparent Adoption in Michigan

Stepparent adoption is a legal process that allows you to adopt your spouse’s child, establishing yourself as a legal parent. This process recognizes the parenting role you’ve assumed and solidifies your bond with the child.


Eligibility and Filing

To begin the stepparent adoption process, you will be the Petitioner, meaning you file the necessary forms for adoption. You can pursue a stepparent adoption if your spouse and the child’s other parent are either divorced or were never married. If the other parent consents to the adoption, the process will be more straightforward. However, if the other parent contests the adoption, it can become more complex, requiring legal intervention to meet the court’s requirements.


Permanent Implications

A stepparent adoption is a permanent legal action. Once the judge approves the adoption, the other parent loses all custody and parenting time rights and is relieved of child support obligations. As the adopting stepparent, you gain full parental rights and responsibilities, which remain even if you and your spouse later divorce.


Starting the Process

Some Michigan courts require that you be married to the child’s parent for at least one year before filing for stepparent adoption. This requirement varies by local court rules and is not mandated by state law.

Required Documentation

Before starting, gather the following documents:

  • Certified copies of birth certificates (for the child and 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 or true copy of any support order for the child
  • Certified copies of any guardianship, name change, or prior adoption orders involving any party
  • Certified copy of the child support history from the relevant county


Termination of Parental Rights

Before the adoption can proceed, the parental rights of the other parent must be terminated either voluntarily or involuntarily.

If the Other Parent Agrees: The other parent must sign the necessary consent forms in front of a judge or referee.

If the Other Parent Does Not Agree: You must prove that terminating the other parent’s rights is justified. This requires clear and convincing evidence 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 two or more years, despite being able to do so.

Consent from the Child: If the child is over 14 years old, their consent to the adoption is also required. This is done through a form called Consent to Adoption by Adoptee.


The Court Process

Investigation and Report:

Once you file your petition, the court will appoint an investigator, usually an employee of the court or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), to examine your case and provide a report on the child’s family background and the suitability of the adoption. This report must be filed within three months.

The Hearing:

If the other parent consents, they must appear in court to sign the consent forms. The judge will ask questions to ensure 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. You will need to present evidence to support the termination of the other parent’s rights. Given the complexity of such cases, consulting a lawyer is advisable.


Stepparent adoption is a profound commitment that legally solidifies your role as a parent. While the process can be straightforward with consent, it can become legally intricate if contested. For personalized guidance, consider consulting a lawyer to navigate this life-changing process. At Stimpson & Associates, we are here to support you every step of the way.