A Quick Look at Stepparent Adoption
Adoption is an instrumental process in the lives of many Indiana children and can give them the consistency needed for a well-balanced life. An adoption requires a petition filed to the court containing information regarding the child sought to be adopted along with information of the petitioner seeking to adopt.
So what happens when the petitioner is married to a biological parent of the child? With divorce at its current rate in Indiana, this is a question being asked by many Hoosier families who have remarried. The question may arise simply due to a close connection between a stepparent and child but also out of necessity and/or future planning. There are many times that a biological parent is out of the picture, leaving a child to be raised by the other parent and a stepparent. Current law would return custody of a child to the other parent in the event of the death or incapacitation of the other parent. Basically, if mom and stepdad are raising a child and biological dad is scarcely in the picture, the child may be put in a situation to live with a parent they barely know if something was to happen to mom. A stepparent adoption ensures the active stepparent will be able to care for the child after a tragedy. It also allows the child to be treated equally in the event of the death of a stepparent.
Both biological parents need to be aware of the adoption process. If the non-custodial biological parent is agreeable to the adoption, they can sign a consent to the adoption. Signing the consent will eliminate the need to notify this parent of any further proceedings or the final adoption. If the parent does not consent to the adoption, a hearing will be held to determine the best interests of the child. If the parent has not financially contributed to the child and/or otherwise had a relationship with the child for an extended period of time, the court may allow the adoption without their consent.
If the child looking to be adopted is over age 12, the child will be required to sign a consent to the adoption. In addition to the petition for adoption and possible consent of the child, the consent of the spouse to the petitioner (biological parent of the child) is also required.
Once the adoption is final, Indiana Code relieves the non-spouse biological parent of all legal duties and obligations to the adopted child and divests all rights after the adoption has ended. The entry of the decree does not eliminate any past due obligations of the biological parent. Any support arrearage that accrued up to the date of the adoption decree will still be owed. This also means the child can no longer inherit from the non-spouse biological parent. After the adoption, the adoptive parent is now treated the same as the biological parent. The child is now in a position to inherit from the new adoptive parent and the adoptive parent is liable for maintenance and education of the child.
In the event the adoptive stepparent and the biological parent of the child divorce, the adopted child is treated the same as any child of the marriage. Parenting time, custody and child support all apply to the child as that child is looked upon the same as a biological child.
Family Law does not always have happy endings and stepparent adoption can be the start of a happy life for Indiana families. If you or someone you know has questions about stepparent adoptions, Banks and Brower, LLC can assist. Give us a call at (317) 870-0019, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.