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Common Questions about Stepparent Adoption

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    These are common questions about stepparent adoption.

    Questions about Stepparent Adoption

    What is stepparent adoption?

    Stepparent adoption is a court process that lets a custodial parent’s spouse adopt the parent’s child. It can be used if the biological 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 approves it, the other parent loses all custody and visitation rights. They won’t have to pay child support or have any other responsibilities for the child. The stepparent is a new legal parent. The stepparent will continue as a legal parent even if they later divorce their spouse.

    The other parent’s parental rights must be terminated before the judge approves 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.

    What if the other parent agrees to the stepparent adoption?

    Stepparent adoption is simplest if the child's 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.

    What if the other parent doesn’t agree to the adoption?

    If the child's other parent doesn’t agree to give up his or her parental rights, an involuntary termination of parental rights is possible. 

    The judge can terminate the parental rights of the other parent if all the following are true:

    • The parent has substantially failed to support the child financially for two or more years;

    • The parent has substantially failed to visit or contact the child for two or more years; and

    • The parent had the ability to support the child and to visit or contact the child during the two-year period.

    The petitioner (the stepparent) must prove by clear and convincing evidence that termination of parental rights is justified.

    Does the child have to agree to a stepparent adoption?

    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.

    How does a stepparent adoption start?

    You can use our Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption to complete the forms you need for a stepparent adoption. After you complete the interview, return to the Michigan Legal Help website for instructions about what to do next.

    You can use the Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption 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. Stepparent adoption in this situation is not simple. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services in your area.

    Does stepparent adoption require a court hearing?

    Yes. If the other parent agrees to the adoption, they must appear in court and sign the required consent forms. At this time the other parent voluntarily gives up all of their parental rights to the child. The judge may ask questions to make sure that this parent’s consent to the adoption is genuine. The judge will likely ask the stepparent and stepparent's spouse questions to make sure the adoption is in the child’s best interest.

    If the other parent does not agree to the adoption, there will be an evidentiary hearing. If you get to this stage in the case, you may want to consider talking to a lawyer. Stepparent adoption in this situation is not simple. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services in your area.

    Is an investigation required for stepparent adoption?

    Yes. After a Petition for Adoption is filed, the judge will order an employee of the court or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to investigate and write a report. The judge may consider the report when deciding whether to allow the adoption. The investigator may talk to the stepparent and the child’s parents. The report will include his or her perspective on:

    • The child’s family background, including information about the parents and stepparent and

    • Whether it is in the child’s best interests to be adopted

    The investigator has three months after being appointed to file the report. The court hearing on the Petition for Adoption will happen no later than 14 days after the investigator files the report.

    Is stepparent adoption final?

    Yes. When the judge grants a stepparent adoption, the stepparent becomes the child’s legal parent. The stepparent will continue to have the rights and responsibilities of a legal parent even if the stepparent and the child’s biological parent get divorced later.