The definition of an American family has grown to embrace a variety of domestic situations. In some cases, a step-parent is the best choice to fill a void that exists in the family. Although you can develop a close relationship with your step-children through the marriage process, many step-parents choose to legalize the role by becoming an adoptive parent. It’s not uncommon. In fact, step-parent adoption is the frontrunner as one of the most common ways to adopt children in America, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The same holds true for residents of Saint Louis County. Since stepparent adoption laws are governed by the state, it is essential to be fully aware of the regulations in the state of Missouri before proceeding.
The process of stepparent adoption in Missouri
In order to start the adoption process, you must submit a petition to the family or juvenile court. Be sure to file the petition in the county in which you reside, where the child was born or where the child is currently living.
Termination of parental rights
In Missouri, before a child becomes eligible for adoption, the non-custodial parent must terminate their parental rights to the child. Either the parent can sign a legal waiver, abandoning their rights to the child or the court can determine that the parent is unfit due to neglect, abuse, death or abandonment. If the termination of parental rights is uncontested, then the home study process may be waived.
If the home study was not waived by the court, a licensed social worker will conduct a thorough home investigation to determine whether the home is safe for the child to live in. Remember that the entire process is structured to make the best decision for the child.
Transfer of custody
Upon approval, transfer of custody will be granted to the petitioning stepparent. The stepparent must be married to the child’s biological parent for at least six months before they will be granted a full adoption.
Reasons to adopt
While you may be content with the current status of your relationship with your step kids, there are several reasons why you may want to legally adopt them. These include the following:
- Gives a congruency of name, insurance, guardianship, inheritance and all other legal matters.
- Releases a child from an abusive, non-custodial parental relationship.
- Provides a sense of emotional belonging and permanence within a child’s life.
- Tears down the barriers between step-siblings, biological siblings and half-siblings, making them all equal in status.
- If the spouse passes away, you will be named legal guardian of your stepchildren.
Uniting a family through stepparent adoption is easier than you may think. Having a reputable family law attorney on your side to walk you through the process is vital. Attention to detail makes all the difference when dealing with child custody. Partner with someone who knows exactly what must be done to finalize the paperwork and move on with your life.
Stepparent adoption can be a lengthy procedure; however, a qualified attorney can help maximize your results and make the process easier for everyone involved.