If you have been in a relationship with someone that has a child from a previous relationship, it may come a time when you start actively thinking about becoming a legal parent to the said child. Perhaps you are engaged and you would like your new family unit recognised by the law. Or maybe the other parent is not present in the child's life and you would like to have that position given to you.
Whatever the case, you should know that this is not a decision that the court takes lightly. Before you can be recognised as a lawful parent to the child, there are several considerations you should bear in mind so you can decide if this change can be pursued by a family lawyer. To assist you with that, this article outlines a few of the things worth knowing before legally adopting a stepchild.
Do you meet the legal requirements that make you an eligible step-parent?
The first thing you need to determine before looking to become the parent of your partner's child is whether you are an eligible candidate in the first place. The first step in doing so is by consulting with a family law solicitor, as this professional will assess your current status to help determine if you have a chance of pursuing this in court.
Generally, this will include establishing if you are of legal age and if you have a clean criminal record. In addition to this, you will have to undergo a physical assessment as well as a mental assessment, as the results will help determine if you will be capable of providing a good upbringing and cultivate a healthy environment for the child. This is vital because if your partner is to pass away, you will have sole responsibility for the child.
Has the child's other biological parent forfeited their parental rights?
A presumption that you may have regarding adoption is that as long as the biological parent is neither financially nor physically present for the child, you can go ahead and legally adopt the child, but this is untrue. The fact of the matter is that no child can have more than two legal parents. Hence, even if the biological parent is absent, they are still legally bound to their kid. Hence, before you go through the adoption process, you must ensure that the other biological parent has forfeited their parental rights.
Remember that a verbal proclamation will not be recognised by the law. Instead, the biological parent needs to sign legal documents to relinquish these rights. But you do not have to present these papers to them on your own. The best course of action is hiring a family lawyer that will draw up the relevant documents and inform the biological parent of your intention to adopt the child. If the absent parent does not agree to relinquish their rights, you can take the case to court and a judge will determine the best decision for the child.