Adoption is the legal process of creating a legal parent-child status between those who lack the biological parent-child relationship. Once an adoption is finalized, the adoptive parent and child have the same rights and obligations as if the child was born if him/her.
In a stepparent adoption, one biological parent retains his/her parental rights, but the parent-child relationship is severed with the other parent. Once the adoption is finalized, the biological parent loses all rights to and responsibilities for the child and the adopting parent acquires these rights and responsibilities. In Missouri, by adopting a child, an adoptive parent is given the same rights and has the same obligations as a biological parent.
Stepparent adoption, or second-parent adoption, is one of the most common forms of adoption in Missouri. When a single parent is raising a child and later marries, the now stepfather/stepmother can petition the court to become the legal parent of the child. If the child’s biological uninvolved parent is still living, his/her consent is needed.
The consent of both biological parents is typically required in order to proceed with a stepparent adoption. If a child is over the age of fourteen, the child’s consent to the adoption is also required.
If one of the child’s biological parents does not give his/her consent to the adoption then the adoption cannot proceed unless the parent withholding his/her consent has had their parental rights terminated by the Court. Parental rights can be terminated for a variety of reasons including abandonment, unfitness, failure to a support child, etc.
Parent’s Whereabouts Unknown
In many instances, the birth father or mother that is not involved in the child’s life has not been heard from in years and, thus, the parent raising the child does not know the other parent’s whereabouts. This is not a dead-end to the adoption process, and your family law attorney can advise you on what is required by the Court when this situation occurs.
Breaking Up with the Other Parent
Once a second-parent adoption has been granted, the breaking-up of the biological parent and stepparent does not alter the legal relationship the stepparent has with his/her child.
A recent case handled by the Law Offices of Kathleen Shaul involved a stepparent adoption by a same-sex couple. A stepparent adoption had been granted by the St. Louis County Circuit Court, and our client became the legal biological parent of the parties’ child through the adoption process. Unfortunately, the parties’ relationship later fell apart. Our client had been an integral part of her child’s life since he was an infant, and the adoption process ensured she was the legal parent of her child. After the demise of her relationship, she was still able to successfully petition the Court for custody of their child.
Adoption is a wonderful opportunity for a child, birth parents and adoptive parents. While the process can be complicated and emotionally stressful, having a knowledgeable, compassionate adoption attorney on your side makes the process smoother. Failure to do so may result in delays or the denial of the adoption. Let our office help you during this exciting time. Kathleen Shaul is an experienced family attorney who has assisted many families with adoptions.