The traditional stepparent adoption involves a woman who has remarried and has a child (or children) from a previous relationship. The same process is followed when the stepmother of a child wishes to adopt. When there is little or no contact with the biological father, the primary father/child relationship forms between the stepparent and the child. Under such circumstances, it is important to proceed with an adoption so that the stepparent has legal recognition as the child’s parent. Without this legal status, the birthfather may be able to assert his rights as a parent should the mother become incapacitated. A stepparent adoption therefore offers security to the child and family.
The birthfather must be given notice of adoption proceedings. Ordinarily, the birthfather is supportive of the adoption because if the adoption is completed the birthfather no longer owes child support. He is still responsible, however, for any back child support incurred up to the time of the final adoption unless the parties otherwise agree. A consent form is presented to the birthfather for signature. If the birthfather signs the consent, the birthfather’s rights are voluntarily terminated and the stepfather may proceed with an adoption. This is the easiest and least costly method of stepparent adoption.
If the birthfather refuses to sign a consent, or it is impossible to locate the birthfather, it is still possible to terminate the birthfather’s rights. The adoption can still proceed in such instances where the birthfather has failed to provide support for or communicate with the child more more than one year, or has otherwise abandoned the child. Additionally, if the parents of the child were never married and there is no one whom the law presumes to be the natural father, then it may be possible to obtain a court order terminating the “alleged” natural father’s rights, without as many legal and procedural requirements as in the case of a formerly-married natural father or a legally presumed natural father. Once the parental rights are terminated by court order, the matter proceeds as if by consent.