In the United States, statistics show that the majority of marriages end in divorce which has resulted in a shift from the traditional family where the mother and father are biologically related to the children who reside in the house. New Horizons Law, P.A., Michael J. Costantino, Esq.’s experience is that the majority of divorced parties who have children in common go on to either remarry or enter into a romantic relationship where they reside with a new person.
In many instances, a potential new client will have a consultation with New Horizons Law, P.A., Michael J. Costantino, Esq. in order to determine whether their new spouse is able to adopt a child from a divorced family. This is known as a stepparent adoption and is governed by Chapter 63, Florida Statutes.
The decision to proceed with a stepparent adoption is one that should not be made lightly because it results in a biological parent consenting to a termination of his or her parental rights; as well as the non-biological parent being court ordered to have all rights as if he or she was the biological parent. This means that legally it will appear as if the child was born to the natural parent and the stepparent; and the child’s birth certificate will be amended by the Department of Vital Statistics to reflect the names of both the natural parent and the stepparent.
The first step to being able to adopt your stepchild is that you must be married to the child’s mother or father. This step used to be problematic in same sex relationships; however, with the fairly recent legalization of gay marriages in Florida the ability to be married is no longer an impediment to these types of stepparent adoptions. Since January 2015, both gay and lesbian couples can legally and lawfully adopt the child of their same-sex spouse as opposed to going through a longer process in what used to be termed as a second parent adoption in Florida.
Once it is established that the stepparent is married to the biological parent, it must be proven that the stepparent has established a parent/child bond with the stepchild. If the stepchild is over the age of 12, he or she must consent to the adoption by executing a “Consent of Adoptee” form.
In order for a stepparent to formally adopt the stepchild, it is necessary to obtain the consent of the other birth parent; but this consent is not required if his or her parental rights have already been terminated by a court or can be terminated due to neglect, abandonment, being unfit to act as a parent or having failed to pay child support.
Once the family law court issues the formal order that grants a stepparent adoption, the other biological parent no longer has any parental rights and responsibilities with respect to the child – which also includes being responsible for child support and other support obligations such as healthcare insurance and daycare costs.
The concerns that come with a stepparent adoption are that if the marriage fails, the stepparent could be awarded the majority of time-sharing with his or her non-biological child. In addition, the stepparent is now responsible to support his or her stepchild.
If you are considering a stepparent adoption, please contact New Horizons Law, P.A., Michael J. Costantino, Esq.