What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Adopting My Spouse’s Birth Children?

One advantage of adopting a spouse’s birth children is that the adopting stepparent would gain full legal authority over the children, including the ability to make decisions relating to the children’s education, health insurance, and health care. In addition, the termination of the natural parent’s rights as a result of the adoption could be advantageous for the child, assuming that natural parent poses a risk of harm to the child.

One disadvantage of adopting a spouse’s birth children is that it would result in the loss of child support from the natural parent. Another disadvantage is the risk of the adopted child becoming the subject of litigation, the natural parent and adoptive parent divorce. Thus, if the relationship between the natural parent and the adoptive parent is not stable, adoption should usually not be considered.

How Can I Adopt My Stepchild If The Birth Parent Does Not Consent?

An adoption case may proceed without consent from the natural parent who would lose their parental rights as a result of the adoption. However, adoption proceedings are much quicker, less expensive, and less time-consuming when the stepparent consents.

Does A Stepparent Adoption Require A Termination Of The Biological Parents’ Rights?

A stepparent adoption requires a termination of one of the biological parents’ rights, which can occur through the consent of the other parent or by court order. In many stepparent adoption cases, the other parent will not sign a consent form, and as a result, the natural parent and stepparent looking to adopt must petition the court to terminate the parental rights of the other parent. In order to terminate another parent’s parental rights against their will, the stepparent looking to adopt must prove that legal grounds for termination exist. Utah Code Annotated Section 78A-6-507 states that the court may terminate the parental rights of a parent if it finds any one of the following factors:

  1. the parent has abandoned the child
  2. the parent has neglected or abused the child
  3. the parent is unfit or incompetent
  4. the child is being cared for in out-of-home placement under court supervision or DCFS supervision and the parent has refused or been unable to remedy the circumstances that caused the child to be removed from them
  5. failure of parental adjustment
  6. only token efforts have been made by the parent to support or communicate with the child, to prevent neglect of the child, to eliminate risk of serious harm to the child, or to avoid being an unfit parent
  7. the parent has voluntarily relinquished parental rights
  8. the parent after a period of trial during which the child was returned to live in the child’s own home repeatedly refused or failed to give the child proper parental care and protection

If grounds exist to terminate parental rights, it must also be demonstrated that the stepparent adoption is in the child’s best interests. In some cases, an expert such as a therapist or evaluator may be used to establish the best interest clause.

How Is Abandonment Defined?

Abandonment is usually defined as a lack of significant contact between a child and parent for a period of six months. However, there are cases under the Utah Supreme Court and Utah Court of Appeals that indicate that abandonment can be considered to have occurred in fewer than six months if the abandoning parent engaged in conduct that implied a conscious disregard of the obligations owed by a parent to a child, thereby leading to the destruction of the parent-child relationship. This can occur due to intentional engagement with criminal conduct resulting in incarceration for a lengthy period of time.

For more information on Adopting A Spouse’s Birth Children In Utah, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (801) 616-3301 today.

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*Child Welfare Law Specialist Nat’l Assoc. of Counsel for Children