Step Parent Adoption
Many Step Parents play a significant role in their step child’s life. Step Parents are sometimes the only father or mother that the child knows. But without an adoption, a Step Parent has no legal rights to their step child.
How Does a Step Parent Adopt a Child.
A Step Parent can adopt their step child the easy way or the hard way.
The easy way:
The easy way to do a step parent adoption is to obtain the consent of the biological (and often absent) parent. The consent may be signed before or after the petition for adoption is filed. These types of step parent adoptions are called uncontested step parent adoptions. Once the adoption is granted, the parental rights of the biological (and often absent) parent are terminated. The spouse of the step parent who is adopting maintains their parent rights. Any orders of child support or visitation by the biological (and often absent) parent also terminate upon the granting of the Decree of Adoption.
The hard way:
If the biological (and often absent) parent refuses to consent to the adoption or cannot be found, the Indiana Code has a mechanism for adopting a step child when the parents “consent not required”. Indiana Code 31-19-9-8.
These types of cases can become very complicated. But they are often successful depending on the facts of the case. The best way to determine whether your case will be successful without a parent’s written consent pursuant to IC 31-19-9-8 is to contact Berry & Domer by phone, text or appointment at 812-336-8300.
What is the legal effect of a step parent adoption:
Once Step parent has successfully adopted their step child, the Step parent becomes the legal parent of the child. The step parent can make legal and medical decisions for the child. The child will become the legal heir of the step parent.
Why should a step parent consider adopting:
Under Indiana law, step parents have no legal authority over a step child. This is true even if the step parent has been a parental figure during the child’s entire life. A step parent who does not adopt his step child cannot obtain custody, be granted visitation or make legal and medical decision for the step child. If the step parent’s spouse dies, the other biological parent will be the legal parent for the child and shall make all legal and medical decisions for the child. Even if the child does not know the biological parent.