Before I get into the depths of this question, I think we first need to define stepparent adoption and regular adoption. Stepparent adoption is an adoption in which a person who is not biologically related to the child wishes to adopt the child and is in a relationship with one of the child’s biological parents. “Regular” adoption is an adoption in which the child being adopted is not biologically related to either parent.
In most cases in a stepparent adoption, both parents must consent to the adoption if they are both living. There are cases where the adoption can occur if both parents do not consent. This usually occurs when one parent has not had contact with the child for over a year. This is called abandonment. In most states, if you can prove that the child has not had contact with that parent for over a year, then you can prove abandonment, and the court can terminate that parent’s rights based on the abandonment of the child.
It is hard to define which type of adoption is easier because they each have their own sets of ups and downs. In a regular adoption, you are usually waiting for a birth parent to choose you to move forward with the adoption. This can cause a lot of emotional stress and a longer time waiting to be matched with a child. The average time of a stepparent adoption can be as little as three months. If both parents consent to the adoption, the only thing that needs to be accomplished is getting the necessary paperwork done and then going to court. A lot of times most of the waiting time is just waiting to get into court. Like I mentioned before, with a regular adoption, you never know how long it will take. It could take as little as three months, but it could also take up to six years, like it did for us or potentially even longer.
In a stepparent adoption, you already know the child, but you cannot control the actions of the other parent. The hard part is either proving abandonment or getting both parents to agree to the adoption. It is a really hard thing to try to convince someone to relinquish her rights to her child. Of course, every situation is different, and there are a lot of reasons why stepparent adoption is great.
If you are simply comparing whether stepparent and regular adoption are the same in concept, they are different when it comes to how much they cost. A regular adoption can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 or $50,000, depending on where you are adopting from. A stepparent adoption can cost as little as $1,000. Of course, a lot of factors go in to each of those figures, but in a stepparent adoption, most of your costs will simply be that of an attorney. If the other biological parent does not consent to the adoption, there will be extra legal fees. If the other biological parent does consent, it is simply a lot of paperwork and one court appearance, hence the lower cost.
The answer to this question is not as black and white as it may seem because you are not comparing apples to apples. Yes, they are both adoptions, but they are both very unique. In a very fast overview, it would seem that stepparent adoption would be easier because there are not as many unknowns as there are in a regular adoption. But at the same time, there can be a lot of unknowns if the other parent does not consent to the adoption. My best advice is to sit down and figure out what the best situation and outcome would be for your family. In a stepparent adoption, you can still be a parent figure even if you do not legally adopt the child. To keep the peace in your family, that might be the best option. Whatever the case may be, have those tough conversations as a family, and then move forward as a family. I wish the best of luck to everyone adventuring in the adoption process.
Jessica Heesch is an avid runner and fitness guru by choice, occasional writer by coincidence, loved by an amazing husband, and mother to an incredible boy, Jackson, by the gift of adoption.