Stepparent Adoptions in Florida
Many of us know that divorce is quite common today and that many stepparents are helping raise children who are not biologically their own. Despite the fact that stepparents do not share genetic material with their stepchildren, this type of parent-child relationship is often just as deep and lasting as any other. Therefore, many stepparents wish to legally adopt their stepchildren. But is this allowed? In Florida, a stepparent may adopt his or her spouse’s children if the requirements outlined below are satisfied.
- The Stepparent Must be Eligible to Adopt their Stepchild
In order to adopt a stepchild in Florida, the stepparent must be legally married to one of the child’s parents. Additionally, the stepparent must be eligible to adopt under section 63.042 of the Florida Statutes. Under this statute most adults are eligible to adopt a child, so long as the adopting adult does not have a disability or handicap that renders him or her incapable of serving as an effective parent.
- File a Stepparent Adoption Petition
The adopting stepparent must petition his or her local circuit court for permission to adopt their stepchild. This can be accomplished by filling out and submitting a Joint Petition for Adoption by Stepparent Form, submitting any supporting documents that the court requests, and participating in an interview if the court requires one.
- Severing the Other Parent’s Parental Rights
Before a stepparent adoption can take place in Florida the parental rights of the child’s “other” parent will have to be terminated. This can happen if the other parent consents to the adoption and willingly gives up his or her parental rights to the child, or if a court finds that this consent is not necessary. Courts in Florida have found that the other parent’s consent does not need to be obtained if:
- The other parent has either deserted or abandoned the child,
- The other parent’s parental rights were previously terminated in another legal proceeding, or
- The other parent is legally declared to be incompetent (and there is little chance that he or she will become competent).
Additionally, it is important to note that the other parent only has parental rights over the child if:
- He or she was married to the child’s mother when the child was born,
- She gave birth to the child,
- He or she previously adopted the child,
- A court previously determined that he or she is the child’s mother or father,
- He or she previously filed an affidavit of paternity with the courts, or
- He or she has legally acknowledged that they are the child’s mother or father.
- The Child’s Consent
If the child is 12 years old or older when their stepparent petitions to adopt them, Florida law requires that the child consents to the adoption.
Need Legal Advice?
While couples in Florida do not legally need to retain a lawyer in order to conduct a stepparent adoption, having an experienced family law attorney by your side can make this complicated process much less challenging. An adoption lawyer can be especially helpful if the child’s other parent refuses to consent to the adoption and the couple is forced to demonstrate in court that the other parent’s consent is not necessary or that their parental rights should be terminated. If you would like more information about stepparent adoptions in Florida, contact the Mander Law Group today at our Dade City office by calling (352) 567-0411.