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Introduction to Stepparent Adoption

Contents

    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 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 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 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 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 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. If you need a lawyer and are low-income, you may qualify for free legal help. You can use Find a Lawyer to look for legal help in your area.

    Learn More

    To learn more about stepparent adoption, read the other articles and common questions in the Stepparent Adoption toolkit.