What is a Stepparent Adoption?

Stepparent adoption is the adoption of a child by the spouse of their biological parent.  Many families desire to make the relationship of stepparent and child a permanent one through adoption. In this case, the stepparent becomes the legal parent of the child and the rights of the biological parent who the stepparent is not married to are severed permanently.  Stepparent adoptions are the second most common type of adoption in North Carolina after the adoption of children through NC’s child welfare (foster care) system.

The Legal Process

The complexity of a stepparent adoption is extremely case specific and is often related to how the biological parent who is not married to the stepparent will have their parental rights cleared. This process can range from their signing paperwork consenting to the adoption to publication in a newspaper and a formal Termination of Parental Rights Hearing. Additional legal adoption forms, consents, motions and orders are also required depending on the circumstances of the case. Stephenson & Fleming can guide your family through all levels of complexity when handling your stepparent adoption in as efficient and cost effective a manner as possible.  

Once petitions for adoption are filed with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where the child and/or parents live, a stepparent adoption can take two courses. While a preplacement assessment (NC’s adoption home study) is not required in a stepparent adoption, a Report to the Court on the Proposed Adoption may be required depending on how long the child and stepparent have lived together and how long the biological parent and stepparent have been married. A Report to the Court on the Proposed Adoption involves a formal recommendation by an agency as to whether the adoption is in the child’s best interest and should be finalized. Should a Report to the Court on the Proposed Adoption be required, the local County DSS or a private child placing agency will contact the family to schedule two face to face visits. One of the visits must be in the home and one must involve the child being adopted. The agency may charge for this service and has 60 days to complete their report and recommendation from the date they are ordered to do so. Stephenson & Fleming will work with your family, the Clerk of Superior Court, and any agency involved in the adoption to make this process as seamless as possible.  

Once a recommendation is made and all necessary paperwork has been submitted by your attorney, reviewed by the Clerk of Court, a determination is made as to whether to finalize the adoption through a Final Decree of Adoption. On the date finalized, the stepchild is officially the child of the stepparent in all legal manner.  

Amending the Child’s Birth Certificate

The adoption paperwork is then sent to the Vital Records office in the state where the child was born for an amended birth certificate. The birth certificate will be altered to remove the name of the biological parent whose parental rights have been severed and to add the name of the adopting stepparent. The child’s name will also be changed as requested by the family. There is no requirement for a name change for the child, and this is an area where Stephenson & Fleming staff can, in a trauma focused manner, discuss with the family how to make the best decisions about name changes based on the desires of all involved.

Stepparent Adoptions for Same Sex Parents

In North Carolina, there is no such thing as a “second parent adoption.” Stepparent adoptions are the mechanism for the spouse in any marriage to adopt a child that is not their biological child. Stepparent adoptions are used for same sex parents to finalize their legal relationship with a child born of the marriage or born prior to their marriage. Stephenson & Fleming, LLP maintains a strong commitment to working with all families in NC in such a way that respects and honors the family unit, including LGBTQ families. A more in depth blog post addressing the use of stepparent adoptions for same sex parents and their families will be posted on this site in January 2019.

Contact Us For More Information

For more information on how Stephenson & Fleming, LLP can assist with your adoption please visit our website at www.childandfamilylawyers.com or contact Jamie Bazemore, our Adoption Facilitator at [email protected].

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