When your spouse decides to adopt your child, it is a beautiful way to solidify their relationship and show love for the child. The United States stepchild adoption process is common and simple. In order to proceed, you and your spouse will need to talk through the advantages and challenges that may be part of such an important decision. If the child is old enough to understand, you will want to talk with him about his feelings and emotions to make sure he agrees before you move forward. Once you are on the same page, here are a few steps to help your spouse make his stepchild his legal child.

1.) Before adopting, consent from the other biological parent must be obtained. That parent will need to agree to relinquish his parental rights and sign the Petition to Surrender form. The blog Mom.me reminds us that “Sometimes there are those inevitable bumps in the road: If a stepchild’s other biological parent is unwilling to give up parental rights, you may find you can’t complete a stepparent adoption.”  However, if the court has already removed the non-custodial parent’s rights, then you will not need consent.

2.) Learning about your state laws is also very important. Each state has its legal process and set of requirements. Some states require a home study, but others do not. Some, expect criminal background checks, but others do not. Some courts even waive some or all of the court fees, depending on your income and the situation. Knowing what to expect will help the process go more smoothly.

3.) Choosing an adoption attorney is very important since he or she will understand the various laws and requirements for adopting your stepchild. The adoption lawyer will know which paperwork needs to be filled out and turned in, and will help keep you on track. According to Adoption.com, “generally, you will not need a home study for a stepchild adoption, but a lawyer will be able to help you determine this. They also schedule a court date for the adoption finalization and will be present at that hearing. Stepchild adoption is not as expensive as regular adoption and the process is much shorter and the child has likely already established a home life with his or her parents. Still, with the combined cost of legal fees and attorney, be prepared to spend between $1,000 and $3,000, respectively.”

In conclusion, it is important to remember that adoption is a lifetime commitment. Adopting a stepchild can be wonderful, and should not be taken lightly. As the adoption and family law attorney Lisa J. Marino says, “All parents, including stepparents, must understand [the commitment of adoption] and make sure it is the right decision for their family and child. A lot to think about for sure—but worth considering if you want to make a strong family even more bonded. Few things say, ‘I love you and I choose you,’ like adoption.” Wkihow.mom eloquently summarizes stepchild adoption by saying that “turning a modern blended family from ‘yours, mine, and ours,’ into simply ‘ours,’ can be accomplished through stepparent adoption… After the adoption, there is no difference in the legal status between children of another marriage and the birth children of the marriage. The word ‘stepchild’ disappears into irrelevance.” Stepchild adoption is beautiful.

Virginia Spence and her husband Eric are parents to two awesome little boys who joined their family via domestic infant adoption. When she is not playing referee or engaged in tickle wars, Virginia can be found cleaning, reading, or drinking giant mugs of coffee. Virginia is passionate about advocating for life at all ages/stages and educating about adoption.