Can you adopt a stepchild in SC?
Often, when people enter a “mixed marriage” with children from prior relationships, the new parent will want to go all-in and adopt their spouse’s child or children. You can adopt a stepchild in SC, but there are some things you should consider before making your decision.
Adopting a stepchild might be the best thing you can do for your stepchild and your family’s future if the biological parent is no longer involved in the child’s life. I’ve said many times that adoptions are among the few types of cases we handle where everyone wins and we can truly feel like we’ve made a difference in someone’s life – it’s not every day that you see smiling faces and tears of joy in the courtroom.
But what should you consider before deciding to adopt a stepchild in SC? Are there reasons not to adopt a stepchild? Is it necessary to terminate the biological parent’s parental rights? How does that work?
If you are considering adoption in SC, our Myrtle Beach adoption lawyer on the Axelrod team can help to make the process as smooth as possible. Call or email now to set up a free consultation to discuss whether adoption is right for you and how to make it happen.
Things to Consider Before You Adopt a Stepchild in SC
The first step in adopting a stepchild is to make sure that you are making the right decision. In many cases, it is obvious that it is in the child’s and your family’s best interests to adopt. In other cases, however, you may have to consider whether it is in the child’s best interests to maintain a parental relationship with their biological parent…
Why I Should Adopt a Stepchild in SC
If you are already acting as your stepchild’s parent, why adopt? If you are there every day, providing for the child and fulfilling the critical role of parent, what is the point of adoption?
First, it provides stability for your stepchild.
Although you are there and they are getting what they need from their relationship with you, just knowing that their parents are legally their parents can provide an important psychological benefit to the child and emotional security that children desperately need and that they will appreciate throughout their lives.
Second, it provides you with legal rights to your child:
- It allows your child to inherit from you;
- It resolves issues with some insurance companies, allowing you to add the child to your insurance policies;
- It simplifies some of your “parental duties,” like doctor’s visits, dentist visits, picking up your child from school or activities – you can now say, “I am the father,” or “I am the mother;”
- It prevents the biological parent from attempting to take custody of the child (the biological parent will no longer have parental rights);
- If you and your spouse were to separate or divorce, you will have equal parental rights to custody, visitation, and child support; and
- You will have all the legal rights and obligations that a natural parent would have.
Why I Should Not Adopt a Stepchild in SC
If your stepchild has an ongoing relationship with their biological parent, adoption may not be the right choice for you. Depending on the quality of the biological parent’s relationship with your stepchild, it may not be an option at all.
Unless the biological parent consents, you will need to demonstrate to the court that they are an unfit parent and terminate the biological parent’s parental rights. If the biological parent is providing emotional and financial support to your stepchild, in most cases, it is in the child’s best interest to continue their relationship with their birth parent even when the child’s parents have been divorced.
You should also consider the stability of your family when deciding whether to adopt a stepchild.
If your relationship with your spouse is in trouble and you anticipate a separation or divorce, then the time may not be right for adoption. Adoption should never be a way to “save our marriage” – if your marriage is on the rocks, you might want to wait and allow your family to heal before taking on the legal responsibility of adopting a stepchild.
Do I Need to Go Through Background Checks, Screening, and Counseling?
If you want to adopt a stepchild in SC, you do not have to complete background checks or counseling, although it may be required for other types of adoptions. You may want to consider adoption counseling anyway, to ensure that you understand the process and to ensure you are making the right decision.
You Must Terminate Parental Rights to Adopt a Stepchild in SC
The biological parent’s parental rights must be terminated to complete a stepchild adoption in SC. If the biological parent does not consent, your adoption attorney on the Axelrod team will ask the Court to terminate parental rights as part of your adoption proceedings
What if the Biological Parent Consents?
The biological parent can and often does consent to termination of parental rights so an adoption can be finalized. Depending on your situation, it may be a difficult and emotional decision for the biological parent. Your adoption attorney will help you to obtain the necessary consent whenever possible and communicate with the biological parent or their attorney on your behalf.
Does the Child Have to Consent?
If the child is 14 years old or older, the child will need to consent to the adoption. If the child is younger than 14 years old, you will only need your spouse’s consent and the consent of the biological parent (or termination of their parental rights through the court).
Do We Have to Go to Court to Adopt a Stepchild in SC?
Your adoption attorney will file a petition on your behalf, and you will need to appear in the family court for a final adoption hearing.
If you are considering adoption of a stepchild in SC, your SC adoption attorney at Axelrod and Associates will help you at every step of the process from your initial decision to the final hearing in the family court.