When a stepparent wants to adopt his or her spouse’s child, there is a specific process that must be followed. The same process is followed for same-sex couples now that gay marriage has been legalized in Florida. The rules governing stepparent adoption in Florida are set forth in Chapter 63 of the Florida statutes.
Initially, we must determine whether the stepparent can legally adopt. In most cases, this means that the individual is found to be a suitable parent and he or she is married to the legal parent of the child.
Next, a Petition for Adoption is filed to start the adoption process. The stepparent desiring to adopt the child is called the “petitioner.” The petitioner must provide the following information:
- Child’s date and place of birth
- If the child’s name will be changed, what the child’s new name should be
- Information regarding how long the stepparent has resided with the child
- An explanation of why the stepparent wants to legally adopt the child
The other biological parent of the child is given an opportunity to object to the adoption. If he or she does not oppose the adoption, the court can enter an order finalizing the adoption. The child can be given an updated birth certificate indicating the child’s new name and new legal parents.
If the absent biological parent does not consent to the adoption, it is usually necessary to file to terminate his or her parental rights. A parent’s rights can be terminated if the parent has (i) deserted or abandoned the child, or (ii) been declared incompetent and it is medically unlikely that competency will be restored. If you do not know how to locate the absent parent, Florida statutes provide several steps that must be taken to try to locate the birth parent before proceeding with the adoption process.
It is important to understand that consent from the absent parent is not required if any of the following are true:
- the absent parent has agreed in writing and witnessed by two other individuals to surrender his or her rights to the child
- the child has been abandoned by the parent
- evidence has been submitted that the parent has engaged in behavior that endangers the life, safety, health or well-being of the child
- the parent is in prison
- a child has been an adjudicated dependent and the parent has not complied with the case plan filed with the court
- the parent has engaged in “egregious conduct”
If you have questions regarding stepparent adoptions, please do not hesitate to contact us for an appointment. Call the knowledgeable attorneys at the Men’s Divorce Law Firm. Our office is located in Orlando, Florida, but we proudly serve husbands and fathers across the State. The firm also serves men out of state with child custody interests in Florida.