Adoption is a big decision whether you are a stepparent or a birth parent. You should have a fair understanding of everything required under the law, what is expected of you, and who to consult with before you begin the stepchild adoption process.
In general, the process of stepchild adoption is less rigorous and formal as compared to adopting non-relatives. However, that doesn’t mean it is easy. You may want to consider involving an outstanding family law attorney so that they can take care of the legal complexities, while you concentrate on carefully handling the changing family dynamics.
Legal Requirements for Stepchild Adoption in Alabama
It is mandatory in Alabama for a stepparent to have lived with the stepchild for at least one whole year before adopting them. Both biological parents are required to give their permission for the adoption. It is important that the biological parent and stepparent are married for a minimum of three years. However, exceptions may apply to these requirements.
This three-year marriage requirement can be waived under certain circumstances. Both biological parents usually need to give their permission for allowing a stepparent to adopt the child. However, you should know that there are situations when the biological parent’s permission is not required. Neglect or incarceration are usually reasons enough for not needing the other biological parent’s consent. You can also prove the biological parent is unfit or unable to be a parent to the child.
It is important for a child over the age of 14 to give their consent. They should understand what adoption entails and the fact that their biological parent will not be legally part of their life. When the spouse of a parent legally adopts a child, it automatically terminates the non-custodial biological parent’s legal rights.
It is recommended to get the biological parent’s legal permission before proceeding since they can always contest the adoption.
Steps Involved in Alabama Stepchild Adoption Process
Adopting a stepchild in Alabama is not as difficult as other types of adoptions. The first step is to visit the local courthouse. You should explain the purpose of the visit to the information counter. They should point you to the department that handles family law in the court.
You should know that having an attorney is not required for completing the adoption process. However, an experienced lawyer can make the process simpler for you and your family. In most instances, you may only need to fill out the necessary paperwork for adopting your stepchild. The paperwork will list out the specific requirements that you need to meet for adopting your stepchild.
These are a few things you should know about submitting an adoption petition to the court:
- You would need to submit the adoption petition with a copy of the stepchild’s birth certificate at the local court that deals with adoptions in your area
- You would need to show the consent of both biological parents for the adoption. You may show implied consent if a parent is unresponsive or absent.
- You would be asked to attend an initial hearing at the local probate court. You would also need to carry supporting documents to this visit.
- The judge will formalize the adoption if the petition is successful. They will issue a final decree to make you the legal parent of your stepchild.
Things to Include in the Petition
You would need to include the following information in an Alabama adoption petition:
- Your name, address, and age as the prospective stepparent
- Location, name, address, and date of birth of your stepchild
- Name and address of your partner or the biological parent with the current custody of the stepchild
- Written consent by all parties that are legally required for the adoption
- Mention the legal reason for terminating legal rights of the biological parent (if applicable)
- Written statement to explain why you as a stepparent would be the best caregiver for the stepchild
- Written statement to explain why adopting the stepchild would be in their best interests
- Whether the Indian Child Welfare Act covers the stepchild being adopted
- Your signature as the prospective stepparent
You would be required to testify at the court hearing that you understand your legal rights as your stepchild’s parent. You would also be required to testify to your obligation to support the child. The judge will sign the adoption order if they believe that the adoption is in the best interests of the child.
An adoption process can be a harrowing and arduous experience if the biological parent denies giving their consent to terminating parental rights. You should consider consulting with a knowledgeable child adoption attorney. It is important to be informed to keep you and your family protected.
Talk to an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today
Adoption is a complex and important decision. The dedicated family law attorneys at the law offices of Alsobrook Law Group in Opelika, AL can explain the stepchild adoption process and guide you towards the best possible course of action. We offer a free initial consultation in a supportive and friendly environment. Schedule a free and confidential consultation today with a compassionate lawyer by calling us at 334-737-3718 or using our online form.