One positive benefit of a stepfather adopting their stepchild is that they will be granted rights of custody and visitation in the event that the relationship between them and the biological mother dissolve. There is evolving law that says that even a “father figure” may have certain rights vis a vis the child, but that is relatively new and should not be relied upon until it becomes better established within New York. Yet another benefit of adopting a stepchild is that separate documentation or approval from the biological mother would no longer be necessary in order to allow the stepchild to participate in school activities, receive certain governmental benefits, or receive medical treatments. In addition to these benefits, which are legal in nature, there are moral and emotional benefits that come along with adopting a stepchild.
If I Adopt My Stepchild, What Are My Legal Parental Duties Towards That Child?
If the relationship between an adoptive father and the biological mother of a child were to dissolve, the adoptive father would have a duty to provide child support. With respect to an intact family, the adoptive father would have the same legal responsibilities as a biological father, including a duty to ensure the safety of the child, ensure that the child attends and performs well in school, and is medically cared for.
How Difficult Is It To Adopt Stepchildren?
It’s not difficult to adopt a stepchild so long as there is a good case for doing so. If the biological father of a child has not legally abandoned the child, does not consent to the adoption, and there are no other grounds to terminate that biological father’s rights, then it would be very difficult or impossible for a stepparent to adopt the stepchild.
A biological father’s rights could be terminated due to mental illness or the inability to take care of the child, and in most cases, CPS or New York City ACS would be involved. Oftentimes, if a biological father’s rights are being threatened or have already been taken away, it is because they have been accused of neglecting or abusing the child. If the biological father has not had substantial contact (i.e. meaningful visitation, contact at least once per month) with the child for at least six months prior to the filing of the adoption case and the mother was not actively concealing the whereabouts of the child, then the stepparent adoption should go through without a problem. In such cases, the only real cause of action or defense that the biological father could use would be to claim that the mother prevented or thwarted their attempts to access the child. When a biological father makes this claim, I will cross-examine them in order to determine the specific ways in which they tried to search for the mother and/or child. It would be the father’s responsibility to prove that they made adequate efforts to do so, such as by filing a visitation petition or hiring a private investigator.
Do We Need A Biological Parent’s Permission Before Moving Forward With A Stepchild Adoption?
If the biological parent has legally abandoned the child, then it would not be necessary to have their permission before moving forward with a stepchild adoption. If the biological father consents to the adoption, then they can either execute what’s called an extra judicial surrender of their parental rights, or they can surrender their rights before a judge, which is referred to as a judicial surrender; either option would simplify and expedite the adoption process.
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