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How Do I Adopt My Stepchild?

Raising children is never easy, even when they are your own.  Raising step-children is even more challenging.  Not being her father, how should you handle her disobeying you?  Not being her mother, how do you say the right things to encourage her?  It is challenging work but it helps if you can make the parent-child relationship permanent.  If you adopt your stepchild, you will have a permanent bond for the rest of your lives.  If you are interested in adopting your stepchild, read on to find out how.

What Happens When You Adopt a Child?

  • Legally, you become the parent with all the rights and responsibilities that entails;
  • It severs the legal bonds between the child and his or her former parent;
  • The child can inherit from you but cannot inherit from the former parent or the former parent’s relatives;
  • The child keeps “vested” property interests. For example, the former parent will still owe past-due child support payments.  However, the former parent will not owe more child support after the date of adoption.

When Can I File for Adoption?

In North Carolina, if the child has lived primarily with you and your spouse for 6 consecutive months, you may file a stepparent adoption petition if:

  1. The spouse has legal and physical custody of the child; or
  2. The spouse is deceased or incompetent but had legal and physical custody of the child before dying or being adjudicated incompetent.

Even if you do not meet either of the two conditions above, the court allows a step-parent to file an adoption petition if cause is shown.

What Do I Need?

It is easier to adopt your stepchild when you have the written consent of the other parent.  There are a number of other documents you will need, including the child’s consent and your spouse’s consent.  You may need certified copies of any custody orders or orders terminating the parental rights of the other parent or even a court report if the child has not lived primarily with you for the past two years.

If you are the biological parent, wish to have your spouse adopt your child, and the other parent doesn’t consent or is not involved in the lives of your children, a termination of parental rights actions may be necessary.  Review our TPR Guide to see if this option is right for you.

If you’re seeking to solidify the bond between you and your step-child, contact us today to get started!

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