What Is The Process Of A Stepparent Adoption?

Unless a stepparent chooses to begin the process of adoption by seeking the consent of the other parent, the first step usually involves filing a petition for termination of parental rights and adoption. There is a special notice that must be served along with the petition and summons on the other party. If the timeline elapses without the other parent filing an answer or opposition, then the court can proceed with termination of their parental rights and adoption based on that parent’s failure to respond and appear. If the biological parent files an opposition or an answer, then each side will have an opportunity to engage in the discovery process.

“Discovery” includes methods of gathering information to bolster your legal position, such as the issuance of subpoenas, requests for depositions, and the use of experts. The discovery process allows for the collection of evidence in ways that would be impossible without having first filed a petition. Once each side has had the opportunity to collect evidence through the discovery process, the court will schedule a trial date where each side will present their evidence. The court will make a decision on whether grounds to terminate parental rights exist and whether such a termination would be in the child’s best interest.

A trial is not necessary if the other parent gives their consent, but that consent usually must be provided and signed in front of a judge in court. Once that occurs or once the court makes the requisite findings at trial, an order of termination will enter. After that, the adoption hearing can be scheduled, during which a decree of adoption will grant full parental rights to the adopting stepparent.

Can A Biological Parent Continue To Have Contact With The Child After An Adoption?

A biological parent can SOMETIMES remain in limited contact with the child after an adoption, as well as occasionally receive information about the child, IF there is an agreement for such contact. Previously, these types of arrangements were unenforceable, but recent changes to the law have made them enforceable and allow the parties to negotiate terms that are more agreeable to the terminating parent in exchange for that parent’s consent to the adoption. However, if the terminating parent violates the terms of the agreement, the legal parents no longer have to honor the contact provisions.

Can We Change The Child’s Name During The Adoption Process? Will The Child Receive A New Birth Certificate?

The adoption petition will contain a place to request that the child’s name be changed. Following the adoption hearing, the adoption case will be sealed, making it very difficult for anyone—including the parents—to ever see what was in the file. Prior to the file being sealed, however, the parents will have the opportunity to obtain court-certified copies of the adoption decree which they can bring to the Utah Office of Vital Statistics and request a new birth certificate reflecting the name change.

For more information on Process of A Step Parent Adoption 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