For complete results, select the county where you live or where your case is filed:

Select county
x
x

I Want to Adopt My Stepchild

Contents

    Stepparent adoption is a court process that lets you adopt your spouse’s child after you have assumed a parenting role for the child. There is no set amount of time you must be the stepparent before adoption.

    You are the petitioner in the case because you will file the forms asking for the adoption. You can do a stepparent adoption if your spouse and the other parent are divorced or if they were never married. If the parents were never married, the father must have:

    • Established paternity by signing an Affidavit of Parentage or

    • Established a custodial relationship with the child or provided regular support

    If the child's father is not the legal father, he may have established a "custodial relationship" with the child if he exercises responsibility for the care, supervision, and upbringing of the child. Whether a custodial relationship exists is something the judge will decide in this situation.

    Stepparent adoption is permanent. If the judge allows the adoption, the other parent loses all custody and parenting time rights. They won’t have to pay child support or have any other responsibilities for the child. You will be the new legal parent and will have all the rights and responsibilities of a parent even if you and your spouse get divorced later.

    How to Start 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 to complete the forms you need for a stepparent adoption. There will be different forms depending on whether the other parent agrees to the adoption.

    Before starting, gather the information you need to answer all the questions. This includes the addresses and Social Security numbers of the birth parents and the child, as well as any driver’s license numbers. You may also need some or all of the following documents:

    • Certified copy of birth certificate for all interested parties (birth parents, child, and yourself)

    • Certified copy of your marriage certificate

    • Certified or true copies of all divorce decrees for the birth parents

    • Certified copy of previous spouse’s death certificate, if applicable

    • Certified or true copy of any Affidavit of Parentage or Order of Filiation for the child

    • Certified or true copy of any support order for minor children

    • Certified copies of guardianship orders, name change orders, prior adoption orders, or other order affecting a birth parent, stepparent, or adoptee

    • Certified copy of child support history from the county through which support should have been paid

    You can use the Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption whether or not the other parent agrees to the adoption. If the other parent doesn’t agree, you may want to talk to a lawyer. Stepparent adoption in this situation is not simple. You can use Find a Lawyer to look for legal help in your area.

    Termination of the Other Parent’s Parental Rights

    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 your stepchild’s other parent agrees to the adoption, voluntary termination of his or her parental rights is part of the process. If your stepchild’s other parent doesn’t agree, there will be a hearing where the judge will decide whether to terminate the other parent’s parental rights. 

    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.

    If the Other Parent Doesn’t Agree

    Involuntarily terminating parental rights is serious. The judge will not take this decision lightly. As the petitioner, you must prove by clear and convincing evidence that termination of parental rights is warranted. Parental rights can be terminated if all the following are true:

    • 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 ability to visit or contact the child during the two-year period. (If there is a child support order, you don’t have to prove the other parent had the ability to pay because ability to pay is factored into the support order.)

    When the Child is Over 14 Years Old

    If your stepchild is over 14 years old, he or she must also agree to the adoption. The child does this by signing a form called Consent to Adoption by Adoptee. It is included in the forms you get after completing the Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption.

    The Court Process

    The Investigation and Report

    After you file your petition, the judge will order an employee of the court or the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to investigate and write a report. The judge may consider the report when deciding whether to allow the adoption. The investigator will probably talk to you and your spouse to get information for the report. The investigator will write about:

    • Your stepchild’s family background, including information about you, your spouse, and your stepchild’s other parent; and

    • Whether it is in your stepchild’s best interests to be adopted

    The investigator has three months after being appointed to file the report. The court hearing on your petition will take place no later than 14 days after the investigator files the report.

    The Hearing

    If the other parent agrees to the adoption, he or she must appear in court and sign the required consent forms. This is when the other parent voluntarily gives up all of his or her parental rights to the child. The judge may ask questions to make sure the other parent’s consent to the adoption is genuine. The judge may ask you and your spouse questions to make sure the stepparent adoption is in the child’s best interest. The judge will also consider the investigator’s report.

    If the other parent does not agree to have his or her parental rights terminated, there will be an evidentiary hearing. You will want to present evidence to show that termination of parental rights is warranted. 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. You can use Find a Lawyer to look for legal help in your area.