A step parent adoption is a form of adoption where the new spouse steps into the legal role of the parent. After the process is completed, the adopting step parent has all the rights and all the responsibilities of a biological parent. If the marriage later ends in divorce, the adopting step parent will be obligated to pay child support, could petition the court for sole custody of the child, and will be allowed visitation if not successful.
In order to complete a step parent adoption, the parent will be replacing the role of one of the child's natural parents. If the natural parent is deceased, the step parent must simply produce the death certificate. If the natural parent is alive, however, that parent's rights must be terminated before the court will allow the step parent to adopt the child. This requires the filing of two lawsuits, one for termination of parental rights, and a second one for permission to adopt. The spouse of the adopting step parent must consent to the adoption. Additionally, if the child is age twelve years or older, that child must consent to the adoption.
When the lawsuits are filed, the natural parent and any other relative of the first degree must be notified. This includes the child's adult siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and of course, the natural parent whose rights may be terminated. The court then orders a home study to determine the child's best interest, and includes a background check of all parents. Eventually, if there is an objection, there will be a court trial. The entire adoption process generally takes approximately six to nine months from start to finish.