Families in America are increasingly becoming blended families of various compositions. According to The Step Family Foundation, there are approximately 1,300 new stepfamilies formed each day in the United States and over one-half of the families in our country are re-coupled or remarried. Some step-parents maintain the role and relationship of “step” parent for their partners' children; however, there may be cases in which a step-parent desires to adopt his or her step-child.
Michigan adoption laws provide for step-parent adoption, and lawmakers have designated a specific legal procedure for step-parents to follow when they desire to adopt a step-child. A step-parent adoption lawyer can help you navigate this complex process. Below are five interesting and important facts about step-parent adoption in Michigan.
1. You must terminate the parental rights of the non-custodial parent.
When both parents are living and the court has not terminated parental rights, a supplemental petition must also be submitted with the adoption documents requesting that the court terminate the other parent's parental rights. The petitioning parent must also submit proof that he or she has sole legal custody.
2. If the father's rights are being terminated, there could be an additional step.
In addition to submitting a petition to terminate parental rights, if the father is a “putative” father, you also must submit a petition to conduct a hearing to identify the father and then determine or terminate the father's parental rights. A “putative” father is a man who claims to be or is alleged to be the biological father of the child, but his legal relationship to the child has not been established.
3. The custodial parent and the step-parent must file together.
When a step-parent is adopting a child, the custodial parent must petition with the step-parent for the adoption. In other adoption proceedings, the parent or parents are usually defendants in the proceedings, not petitioners.
4. Biological parents cannot be married when the adoption petition is filed.
Michigan adoption laws require that the biological parents of the child who is the subject of the adoption proceeding are divorced or have never been married. A step-parents cannot adopt a step-child if the biological parents are still married, even if the parents are separated and have not been residing with one another for many years.
5. The step-parent must be married to the custodial parent.
A step-parent must be married to the custodial parent to adopt a step-child. Additionally, the step-parent must also have assumed a parental role in the child's life. However, there is not a minimum requirement for how long you have been the child's step-parent before you can begin the adoption process.
Adopting a Step-Child in Michigan Can Be Complicated
The easiest way for a step-parent to adopt a step-child is to obtain the consent of the non-custodial parent. The consent by the non-custodial parent to the adoption and the termination of his or her parental rights can make the procedure for adopting a step-child in Michigan is much easier.
However, if the non-custodial parent contests the adoption, a judge must order an involuntary termination of parental rights. In determining whether to terminate parental rights on an involuntary basis, the judge considers several factors, including whether the parent has had the means to support the child financially and to visit the child but has failed to do so.