Can a Biological Parent Block a Stepparent Adoption?
About 5% of all children with a stepparent end up getting adopted by their stepparent. This sort of adoption can be challenging to navigate since it brings up sensitive topics like former relationships and child custody. Whether or not the biological parent consents to the adoption plays a big role in the eventual outcome.
Stepparent Adoption Requires One Parent to Give Up Parental Rights
To understand why consent is such a big issue, it’s necessary to understand New Jersey adoption law. Legally speaking, a child can only have two parents. Therefore, if a stepparent wants to adopt the child, they need more than the consent of the parent they are married to. They also need to be stepping into a role that was vacated by the other parent.
In the simplest cases, this happens due to death. Once one biological parent has died, the spouse of the remaining parent can adopt the children. They could do this even if the deceased parent stated that they did not give consent to an adoption in the past.
If the biological parent is still alive, their consent matters. Without them voluntarily giving up parental rights, it can be very difficult for a stepparent to adopt your child. Even if the biological parent does not have custody, they may still be able to block an adoption.
How to Get Consent for Stepparent Adoption
Most cases of stepparent adoption start with a simple conversation between the child’s current legal parents. If the stepparent and their spouse can convince the other person to give up their rights, the process just involves paperwork. The parent will need to fill out a voluntary surrender of parental rights form and submit it to the court.
To simplify the process, a New Jersey adoption lawyer will usually submit these forms alongside the other adoption forms. Once the surrender of rights form is accepted by the court, it entirely removes any responsibility from the biological parent. They do not have to pay for child support or care for the child. They will also be giving up their rights to see the child or have a say in the child’s upbringing.
How to Finalize an Adoption Without Consent
If a biological parent does not agree to consent, the other parent and their spouse have the option of trying to forcibly remove the parent’s rights. This tends to be a very challenging process. Instead of just filing paperwork, the parents have to go to court and argue their case in front of a judge.
To remove parental rights and clear the way for adoption, they will need to prove the biological parent is an unfit parent. This is very challenging because the burden of proof is on the parents who want to adopt. Most family courts want to preserve parental rights whenever possible, so they are not likely to side with the stepparent unless there is clear proof. Some potential reasons to remove parental rights include:
- The parent has been convicted of a major crime
- There is reasonable proof the parent has been abusive
- The parent has neglected the child when the child was in their care
- The parent has extensive substance abuse problems and won’t seek treatment
- The parent has abandoned their child and cannot be found
- The parent has not made an effort to see or financially support the child
Stepparent adoptions are often portrayed as a simpler type of adoption, but as you can see, there are still a lot of technicalities to consider. If you are involved in a stepparent adoption situation, it’s a good idea to seek legal counsel. As a leading New Jersey adoption lawyer, Donald Cofsky is here to help. The team at Cofsky & Zeidman can assist you with everything from filing legal paperwork to arguing your case in court. We have offices in Haddonfield, Woodbury, and Philadelphia. If you would like to schedule a consultation with us, dial 856-429-5005 or fill out our contact form.