In an adoption proceeding, a child’s membership in his or her birth family is legally terminated and he or she becomes a permanent member of the adoptive family. While many adopted children are of course not related by birth to either adoptive parent, if your spouse has children from a prior relationship you should know that Florida law allows a stepparent to adopt his or her spouse’s children.
In Florida, only married couples are entitled to pursue a step-parent adoption. Florida law requires that one of the spouses be the biological or adoptive parent of the child, and that either consent is obtained from the other parent or that grounds exist for terminating the other parent’s rights.
Why Should a Stepparent Consider Adoption?
Many stepparents choose to adopt to bring their families closer together or as a way to demonstrate to the stepchild that he or she is considered a full fledged member of the family. Because adoption gives the stepparent the same authority as if he or she was the child’s birth parent, it can also have important practical benefits when a parent’s consent or approval is required, such as in a medical or other emergency.
Who Must Consent?
We are often asked by prospective adoptive parents and stepparents alike whether the consent of one or both of the child’s birth parents is needed. Determining whether someone’s consent is required under Florida law can be a complicated issue, and the advice of an experienced attorney is strongly recommended. In general, however, consent of the child’s birth parents must be obtained unless:
- The parent’s rights have been terminated involuntarily by the court as the result of neglect or abuse, or
- Despite a diligent effort, he or she cannot be located.
A man is considered is considered to be the child’s father for purposes of adoption if:
- He was married to the child’s birth mother when the child was conceived or born
- He previously adopted the child
- He acknowledges that he is the biological father, or his paternity has been proven in court
In a typical adoption by a married couple, both spouses will join in the request to the court (called a “petition”) to adopt. When the child’s birth parent is a member of the couple, however, he or she need not formally join in the petition, though he or she must still consent to the adoption.
The consent form must contain a number of very specific disclosures in plain language, including the birth parent’s right to refuse consent and to have an attorney. Most important, it advises the birth parent that consent is permanent. Unless it was coerced or obtained by fraud, once consent is given it ordinarily cannot be revoked.
At Orner Law, LLC, we are highly experienced in all types of sensitive family law matters, including adoption. We understand that this is a very important issue for you, and we will offer you the professional support and guidance you need to ensure it is properly handled.
We welcome you to contact a South Florida adoption attorney at our firm for an initial consultation; this may be the perfect opportunity for you to learn more about your rights and what to expect during this legal proceeding. We’ll help ensure that the process of adopting your spouse’s child goes as smoothly as possible. If you have any questions about stepparent adoptions in Florida, please do not hesitate to contact a lawyer at Orner Law, LLC. We are here to help.
With offices in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, Orner Law, LLC serves clients throughout South Florida.
Contact a South Florida step-parent adoption lawyer at Orner Law, LLC today for your initial consultation.