Divorce and remarriage has created close and loving blended families all over the country. It has also resulted in more and more stepparents wanting to adopt their spouse’s children, strengthening the bond and making the family feel more complete. There are also practical reasons for such a move: adoption allows the stepparent to make important legal and medical decisions for the child, and the child can receive benefits that require legal adoption first, such as health insurance and intestate inheritance rights.
Stepchild adoptions in Utah differ in several ways from traditional adoptions. One of the biggest stipulations is that you can only begin the process after you have lived with the custodial parent and the child for at least one year. You must also be married to the custodial parent and at least 10 years older than your stepson or daughter. With few exceptions, consent to the adoption is required from all of the parties below.
- The child’s custodial parent (your spouse)
- The child, if he or she is at least 12 years old
- The noncustodial parent
- The child’s court-appointed guardian (provided they have been given the right to consent to an adoption)
It sometimes happens that the noncustodial parent will withhold consent to spite you and / or their ex. If this happens, the process becomes a lot more complicated, although the adoption may eventually go through despite their objection.
The Adoption Process
Unlike traditional adoptions in Utah, a home study is not required, but before stepparents are permitted to adopt, they must undergo a criminal background check and search for any reports alleging child abuse or neglect. Once you are cleared by the Division of Child and Family Services Bureau of Criminal Investigations and the Utah Child Abuse Registry, you may proceed to file your Petition to Adopt a Minor Stepchild with the court.
At this point, all parties required to consent to the adoption must then do. If they don’t, or someone with the right to notice and intervene does not waive either one, they must be served with your Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights and be given 30 days to file a motion to intervene. Should they fail to respond, the adoption may proceed without interference.
If the noncustodial parent is being especially difficult, the Utah Adoption Act recognizes circumstances where they could lose their parental rights. They include abuse, abandonment, and failure to provide financial support or cultivate a parent-child relationship. If a person claims to be the biological father but cannot establish legal paternity, their objections to the adoption may be disregarded.
Once any objections are dealt with successfully, you will be required to attend a scheduled hearing, answer the questions put to you by the judge, and sign the Adoption Agreement. The hearing will conclude with the judge signing the Adoption Decree.
Afterwards, a court representative will send the completed and certified Report of Adoption form to the Office of Vital Records and Statistics. If your stepchild was born in Utah, you will receive instructions on how to secure a new birth certificate. If he or she was born outside the state, the Record of Adoption will be sent to the appropriate authority in his or her birth state.
Expanding your family via stepchild adoption is an exciting and rewarding process that the team at Arnold, Wadsworth & Coggins takes pride in supporting. For a confidential consultation, contact us today.