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Is adopting your stepchild the right move for you?

Marrying someone who already had children was a leap of faith. You may know families that struggle to blend successfully, and stepparents may feel they never fully belong in the life of a stepchild. Your decision to adopt your stepchild is deeply personal, and you likely weighed many factors before deciding to move forward with the process.

Of course, this choice is not for every family, and your first step is to determine whether your spouse and his or her child want you to take on this important role. They may be happy with the family as it is without going through an adoption. In fact, the court may also be interested in your stepchild's opinion of becoming your adopted child. However, if your spouse and stepchild give their approval, you are ready to move to the legal part of the process.

Taking the path to adoption

Adopting a stepchild provides many benefits besides solidifying your relationship and giving you a feeling of family unity. By adopting the stepchild, you can include him or her on your insurance policy and entitle the child to the rights of inheritance. You also have the rights of legal custody, meaning you can have access to the child's medical records and make legal decisions for the child's wellbeing. The process of stepparent adoption includes the following:

  • If the child you want to adopt has another biological parent besides your spouse, you will need consent from that parent.
  • If the birth parent refuses to consent, you may need to explore the possibility of terminating parental rights, but this is not always appropriate.
  • Once you have consent of the birth parent, or if the birth parent is not available, you can complete and submit the adoption paperwork to the appropriate court.
  • The court may require you to undergo a background check.
  • You will have to attend a hearing for finalization of the adoption.

In general, stepparent adoption is much less complex than regular adoption once you get past the consent of the birth parent. You may find the family court in your area of Ohio is willing to streamline or even bypass the home study portion of the adoption process. Your attorney can assist with any of these steps, including completing the paperwork, preparing you for the court hearing and amending your child's birth certificate to reflect his or her new status as your child.

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