A step parent can get legal custody of a child if there is a step parent adoption. That step parent adoption process is relatively simple if the legal standards are met. Let me tell you a little bit about legal standards. In order to have a step parent adoption, you have to have one of two things. You may either have to have consent of the biological parent for the step parent to adopt, because in order for the step parent to adopt, the biological parent has to give up their parental rights which is permanent. They are no longer the parent of the child. If the parent is willing to do that, to give up parenting rights then you can have a paper signed, essentially an agreement signed for that and then the step parent adoption can move forward.
The second way it can move forward is without the consent of the biological parent under certain circumstances. Those circumstances are if there’s been an abandonment of a child and that’s a legal term, abandonment. It means that there isn’t really any relationship, significant relationship between the child and the biological parent. That’s usually easy to prove if there’s no relationship, if there’s been no relationship. If there’s been some relationship, then there’s a question. Has there been a legal abandonment? That’s something that we need to look at the circumstances of the particular case or there’s been 12 consecutive months of no child support paid. I want to underline that, the prior 12 consecutive months of no child support paid. That’s an or, either abandonment or 12 consecutive months of no child support paid.
Under either of those circumstances or both, but either of those circumstances, you can do a step parent adoption without the consent of the parent that’s giving up their parental rights. Then there’s also background checks necessitated for the parent who’s adopting the child to make sure that there’s nothing in the background of that parent that would have them be an endangerment to the child so there’s an FBI background check, there’s a number of background checks that need to be done. If all that is done and you prove abandonment or 12 consecutive months of no child support or the biological parent has gone ahead and signed a consent then the step parent can adopt the child.
Once that adoption is done, thus the parent has all the rights and all the responsibilities of a biological parent. If there’s a divorce later on, that step parent who is now the parent legally, is as responsible for the child and has as many rights as the biological parent would have. I have seen this situation occur where there’s been a step parent adoption and a year later they get divorced and the step parent doesn’t want anything to do with the children, it doesn’t matter, they’re going to have to pay child support just like they would if they were the biological father. It is a full fledged adoption.