Step-parent adoption can be a wonderful way of affirming a relationship, providing a child with a sense of security, and ensuring continuity of a relationship the child may have come to rely on. It is also a legal matter, involving complex processes and lifelong obligations.
Understanding Stepparent Adoption
Stepparent adoption gives the stepparent all of the rights and obligations of a natural parent. Most people considering step-parent adoption focus on the rights. When a step-parent is an active participant in raising a child, it’s only natural that both the step-parent and natural parent would want the step-parent to be able to speak to school officials, authorize medical care, sign permission slips, and generally conduct the business of being a parent.
Many people also use step-parent adoption as a means of ensuring that the step-parent/child relationship will continue if the natural parent passes away, becomes incapacitated, or is otherwise unavailable.
However, many people fail to consider other ramifications of adoption, such as the fact that step-parent adoption survives divorce. That means not only that the step-parent who has adopted a child may be liable for child support after a divorce, but also that he or she will be entitled to parenting time—perhaps even primary physical custody. Many step-parents and natural parents embrace this commitment, but it is important to ensure that everyone involved fully understands the ramifications of adoption.
The Ohio Stepparent Adoption Process
Unlike many other states, Ohio does not provide a simplified or abbreviated process for step-parent adoption.
To further complicate matters, specific requirements and procedures may differ somewhat from one Ohio county to another.
For example, Cuyahoga County provides a three-page list of items and documentation that must accompany a petition for step-parent adoption with little or no explanation of many of the listed items and requires that a licensed adoption agency be involved in any adoption other than by a biological relative.
Lake County provides clearer instructions and downloadable forms, but the list of required documentation from varied sources can nonetheless be daunting.
Both Lake and Cuyahoga counties require home studies and letters of recommendation, but the specific requirements such as number, subject matter, and source of the letters, differ.
Work With an Experienced Adoption Lawyer
Working with an experienced Ohio family law attorney can help ease the process and ensure that you don’t overlook technical requirements or make small mistakes that could delay or derail the step-parent adoption process. Your attorney can also explain the long-term legal ramifications of adoption, including step-parent adoption.
Having an experienced legal advocate at your side is particularly important if the adoption is contested, there are difficulties or irregularities involving the consent of the other parent, or there are any issues in the would-be adoptive parent’s background that may raise concerns with the court or the agency conducting the home study.
The information presented in this post is not legal advice and does not form a lawyer/client relationship. Laws and circumstances can differ and change.
Please contact us for a personal review of your situation