Raleigh, NC Step-Parent Adoption Lawyer

An adoption is an administrative process by which a legal parent-child relationship is created, usually between parties unrelated by blood. If your child has an absentee and disinterested parent and you are remarried, your new spouse may be able to adopt your child. The absentee parent may consent to the adoption or you may have to terminate the parent’s rights. If you have decided that step-parent adoption is right for your family, speak with a Raleigh step-parent adoption lawyer who can help guide your family through the process.

Though this type of adoption is usually a bit easier than other types of adoption, it is still extremely complex. Therefore, it is important to speak to an experienced family attorney who can guide you through each step of the process to help avoid any of the common pitfalls that could put your adoption in jeopardy.

Understanding Adoptions in Raleigh

State law governs most aspects of adoptions, although federal law may also be a factor. In step-parent adoptions, the consent of the other birth parent is the easiest and fastest way to move the adoption forward. The consent states that the birth parent agrees to cede all of their parenting rights to the step-parent. If the birth parent will not complete the necessary paperwork, this greatly complicates the process because it requires the parent to begin a termination of rights hearing against the absentee birth parent.  However, this may change under certain circumstances if their parenting rights were previously terminated for any reason. The spouse of the step-parent must also sign a consent for the stepparent to adopt. Sometimes legal complications also arise during the adoption process, such as the other birth parent changing their mind. Experienced Raleigh step-parent adoption lawyers may know how to handle these situations.

The Complex Process of Step-Parent Adoption

An adoption process typically takes less than a year. However, it can take years, due to the need to carefully evaluate the suitability of the adoptive step-parent and the legal rights of the birth parent.

The first step in many adoption cases is the completion of a Preplacement Assessment, also known as a Homestudy. A Preplacement Assessment is an in-depth investigation of a prospective adoptive family to evaluate their suitability to adopt. Preplacement Assessments are generally completed by social workers after visiting the home, interviewing all household members, and reviewing documents submitted by the prospective adoptive parent. Generally, the process takes four to six weeks to complete.

Upon successful completion, the Preplacement Assessment is valid for eighteen months. A step-parent adopting their spouse’s child or children may not need to go through a Preplacement Assessment. A skilled Raleigh step-parent adoption lawyer could help you understand your first steps in adopting a child.

Filing a Petition for Adoption

After completion of the Preplacement Assessment, the adoptive process itself begins with the filing of a Petition. It is important to understand step-parent adoptions, like all adoptions, are viewed from the perspective of the child’s best interests, not those of the adoptive or biological parents. As a result, the court process focuses on gathering information about the adoptive and biological parents to ensure the adoption is in the best interests of the child. If a birth parent objects to the adoption, it is important to note, a separate termination of parental rights proceeding is generally required and can be addressed with the assistance of a Raleigh step-parent adoption lawyer.

North Carolina state law requires the court to set a hearing date on the Petition within 90 days of the Petition being filed. This hearing is to determine whether or not the Petition will be granted and must take place within six months of filing. If the Petition is unopposed, a hearing is generally not necessary. If a Petition is opposed, a hearing is required and a court must find upon a preponderance of the evidence the step-parent adoption is in the best interests of the child, that the prospective adoptive parent is suitable and that all statutory procedural requirements for adoption have been met. If the court finds the prospective adoptive parent has met these elements, the step-parent adoption may be granted.

A final decree of adoption states that the legal relationship is entirely ended between the child and the absentee natural parent. A new relationship, involving all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood, is created between the child and the step-parent who is adopting. The spouse of the step-parent retains parental rights. Once the adoption is approved, the child’s name may be changed, and a new birth certificate is issued with the step-parent’s name.

Speaking with a Raleigh Step-Parent Adoption Attorney

In any step-parent adoption case, complying with rigorous procedures and meeting all requirements demands careful legal work. Adoption can bring a great deal of happiness to your life and family, but it is important to get the best legal advice from a Raleigh step-parent adoption lawyer to make sure the process goes smoothly.

An attorney can provide invaluable assistance, moving the process along with careful attention to detail and experience in understanding how different agencies work. The important thing is that every action is a step toward a happy family, with a child who is now a legal member of it. Consult with an experienced attorney today to walk through the adoption process and ensure all necessary factors are taken into account.