Helping To Create Families

Frequently, changing family dynamics bring on the need for a family adoption to take place.  In our office, the most common of the adoptions are those of stepparents adopting the child or children of their spouse.  In many families, where there is a divorce, there is one parent who takes on the full responsibility of parenting the children of that marriage.  In many of those divorces, the non-custodial parent stays is close contact and plays an active role in his or her children’s lives following the divorce.  However, this is not always the case.  In some situations, the non-custodial parent’s role diminishes, usually due to that parent’s decreased involvement in the children’s lives.  Sometimes, that parent "fades away," declining to visit or to see the children on an active basis.  Other times, a parent may see the children very infrequently.  The parent may or may not pay child support regularly.

In many cases, the custodial parent may move on with his or her life, and the children’s, and may marry another individual.  The new spouse and family member may now play an active role in the family, often taking on the role of a parent to the new step-children, where the non-custodial parent has exited the situation for whatever reason.  Since the stepparent is now taking on the role of a parent, he or she may want to solidify that status by adopting the stepchild or stepchildren.

The Benefits Of A Stepparent Adoption

There are many benefits to a stepparent adoption.  One is the unity of the family, both in name and legally.  When an adoption occurs, the children gain all of the benefits by law that a parent can offer.  One is the right to inherit should the parent pass. Another is access to important information, such as medical and school related materials.  Yet another benefit that often goes along with the adoption process is the choice to take on the last name of the adopting parent and the ability to change the current name of the child.

In a stepparent adoption, the first and most important step in pursuing the adoption is terminating the rights of the natural parent.  A termination of rights means the complete legal elimination of all of the rights and obligations that the parent would otherwise have.  One is the right to seek custody or visitation with the child or children.  Another is the duty to support the child or children.  Yet another is the right to make important decisions in a minor child’s life, including those regarding medical, religious, and educational choices.  A termination of parental rights can occur by agreement, or can occur following a Court scheduled termination hearing, after which a Court will decide if the termination of parental rights is warranted.

Following the termination of the non-custodial parent’s rights, the stepparent may adopt the child or children.  The adoption process may involve a home inspection and a complete check of the potential parent’s background.  The Court will ultimately schedule a hearing on the issue of adoption, and will decide if the adoption is warranted and in the best interest(s) of the child or children involved.

An adoption is often a very rewarding and happy process, ending in the creation of a new family.  An adopting stepparent will enjoy all of the legal benefits that being a parent has to offer, for the rest of his or her life.

Have Your Adoption Questions Answered

Bethany L. Notaro, Esquire is an experienced adoption attorney, handling stepparent adoptions in Pittsburgh (Allegheny County) as well as throughout southwestern Pennsylvania (Westmoreland, Washington, Butler, among others).  Ms. Notaro will be more than happy to consult with you regarding your own unique adoption situation, and how she may help.  Attorney Bethany L. Notaro and her family law firm are here to explain your many options.  For more information on stepparent adoptions and adoption counseling please contact lawyer Bethany L. Notaro at 412-281-1988.