Imagine this scenario: a man marries a woman who is widowed with two sons and raises the boys as his own for two years. Then the woman dies in a car accident, and her parents take custody of the boys and petition to adopt them. What rights does the stepfather have? Unfortunately, if he hasn’t formally adopted the boys, he has no legal rights. He can ask a court to grant custody or visitation based on the best interests of the children, and by asserting in loco parentis, but the final decision rests entirely on the discretion of the judge. This example may seem a bit extreme, but it illustrates one very important reason that Louis Wm. Martini, Jr., P.C. helps stepparents formally adopt their stepchildren. If you want legal protection for your loving relationship with your stepchildren, we can help.
There are legal and emotional reasons why a stepparent would want to adopt a partner’s child(ren), including:
In short, adoption erases the “step,” so the legal relationship is between a parent and the children.
Although the commonwealth’s adoption laws are among the least restrictive in the nation, a child can still only have two parents. If the birthparents are divorced (or have never been married), the children are not free for adoption until one parent dies, surrenders parental rights, or has parental rights terminated due to unfitness as a parent. Parents who remain engaged in their children’s lives rarely are willing to step aside and let their ex’s new spouse adopt their children. However, parents who are estranged sometimes consent to an adoption, because it frees them from child support obligations. In rare cases where contact with the other parent is contrary to the best interests of the child(ren), a court might terminate parental rights, freeing the path for adoption.
The children can pose another obstacle to stepparent adoption. In Pennsylvania, a child 12 years of age and older must consent to the adoption. Children of a deceased parent, for example, may resist adoption for fear of betraying the memory of that lost parent. Although patience and understanding are necessary, parents should help their children see the practical advantages and security that come with adoption.
Once these obstacles to adoption have been overcome, the process is the same as any type of Pennsylvania adoption: the adoptive parent must pass a home study by a state licensed home study provider.
Louis Wm. Martini, Jr., P.C. provides reliable legal counsel for stepparents hoping to adopt their stepchildren. Call us at 610-624-4227 or contact our office online to schedule a free consultation. We are conveniently located at 206 West State Street, just a few short blocks from the Delaware County Courthouse.