Stepparent adoption lets a custodial parent’s spouse adopt the parent’s child. It can be used if the parents are divorced or were never married. The new spouse files a Petition for Adoption and other forms to start the process.
Stepparent adoption is permanent. If the judge allows the adoption, the other parent (the parent who is not married to the petitioning stepparent) loses all custody and parenting time rights. They won’t have to pay child support or have any other responsibilities for the child. The stepparent becomes a new legal parent and remains a legal parent even if the stepparent and spouse get divorced later.
The other parent’s parental rights must be terminated before the judge will approve a stepparent adoption. For this to happen, the other parent must either:
Agree to have their parental rights voluntarily terminated or
Have their parental rights involuntarily terminated by the judge
If the Other Parent Agrees to Adoption
Stepparent adoption is simplest if the other parent agrees to the adoption. The other parent must sign the required forms in front of a judge or referee. The other parent voluntarily gives up all parental rights to the child.
If the Other Parent Doesn’t Agree to the Adoption
If the other parent doesn’t agree to give up their parental rights, an involuntary termination of parental rights is possible. The judge can terminate the parental rights of the other parent if all of the following are true:
The parent who is married to the stepparent petitioner has either sole or joint legal custody according to a court order;
The other parent has substantially failed to support the child financially for two or more years;
The other parent has substantially failed to visit or contact the child for two or more years; and
The other parent had the ability to support the child and the opportunity to visit or contact the child during the two-year period.
The Petitioner must prove by clear and convincing evidence that these three things are true.
When the Child is Over 14 Years Old
If the child is over 14 years old, the child must also agree to the adoption. The child does this by signing a form called Consent to Adoption by Adoptee form.
Starting a Stepparent Adoption
Some courts require a marriage of at least one year before a Petition for Stepparent Adoption can be filed. This is not required by Michigan law, but may be required by local court rule.
You can use our Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption tool to complete the forms you need for a stepparent adoption. After you finish, return to the Michigan Legal Help website for instructions about what to do next.
You can use the Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption tool whether or not the other parent agrees to the adoption. But if the other parent doesn’t agree, you may want to talk to a lawyer.
To learn more about stepparent adoption, read the other articles in Filing for a Stepparent Adoption.
Finding a Lawyer
You might decide you want a lawyer to help you. If you have a low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have a low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area. If you are not able to get free legal services but can’t afford high legal fees, consider hiring a lawyer for part of your case instead of the whole thing. This is called limited scope representation. To learn more, read Limited Scope Representation (LSR): A More Affordable Way to Hire a Lawyer. To find a limited scope lawyer, follow this link to the State Bar of Michigan lawyer directory. This link lists lawyers who offer limited scope representation. You can narrow the results to lawyers in your area by typing in your county, city, or zip code at the top of the page. You can also narrow the results by topic by entering the kind of lawyer you need (divorce, estate, etc.) at the top of the page.