When a single parent remarries, a step-parent takes on the responsibility of raising, caring for, and loving their spouse’s child. In most cases, both the children and step-parents will form a close bond together – much like the bond that biological parents and their children share. However, under Florida family law, step-parents have no legal rights with respect to the child. Therefore, many step-parents will adopt their step-child and form a parent-child relationship in both their eyes and in the eyes of the law.
Step-parent adoption is the most common form of adoption in the United States. It is a way to legally unite a blended family and provide security for everyone. When a step-parent adopts their step-child, they get full legal and physical custody of the child, and they will have the same rights as the birth parent.
Step-parent adoption is one of the easiest types of adoption to complete. However, if all of the necessary requirements and prerequisites are not complied with exactly as the law demands the adoption may be denied. If you are a step-parent considering adopting your spouse’s child, you should contact Florida Law Advisers, P.A., for assistance. We can draft all of the necessary paperwork and navigate your adoption application from start to finish to help ensure a smooth and timely process.
The Adoption Process:
With competent legal representation at your side, the adoption process can be relatively quick and inexpensive. In step-parent adoption cases, Florida family law will not require a report, recommendation, home study, or waiting period. Furthermore, the step-parent will not be required to complete a background check during the adoption process. However, the step-parent will need to either (a) get the consent of the biological parent or (b) get approval from the court.
If the biological parent is willing to consent to the adoption the step-parent should consider this route. Step-parent adoptions are typically more simple and efficient to complete when the biological parent consents to terminating their parental rights. In many cases, biological parents are willing to give consent because it relieves them from having to pay any future child support.
If consent is not a viable option the stepparent will need to petition the court to terminate the biological parent’s rights and approve the adoption. A court will consider a multitude of factors when deciding whether or not to approve the adoption. In most cases, a court will only terminate a biological parent’s rights and approve the adoption if the parent has no or very limited contact with the children.
Terminating Parental Rights in a Florida Stepparent Adoption Case
To complete a Florida stepparent adoption, the parental rights of the biological parent must be terminated. The biological mother automatically obtains parental rights upon the birth of the child. Therefore, in every adoption case where the mother is still living, there must be a judgment of termination of parental rights entered by a court of law before the adoption can occur. If the mother were married at the time of conception or birth, the mother’s husband would also acquire parental rights automatically upon the child’s birth. Fathers to children born out of wedlock will need to establish paternity legally. Until paternity is established, the father will not be legally recognized under the Florida child custody law. For assistance with establishing paternity, contact a Florida child custody attorney.
Florida Stepparent Adoption
Adoption is creating a legal relationship between parent and child, where such a relationship did not exist. When adoption is complete, the biological parents’ parental rights are terminated, and the adopting parties assume all rights, privileges, and obligations as parents of the adopted child.
Generally, there are three types of adoption cases in Florida. See Florida Statutes Chapter 63. The most common type of adoption cases is when the parents voluntarily consent to the adoption. The second type of adoption cases originates in dependency cases. In dependency termination cases, the court determines it’s not in the child’s best interest to remain with the biological parent. Thirdly, are Florida stepparent adoption cases.
Florida Stepparent Adoption with Consent of the Biological Parents
Adoption by consent can only occur if all the persons required to consent under Florida adoption law consent to the adoption per Florida’s requirements. If the minor child to be adopted is over 12 years of age, the child must consent as well. See Carlson v. Keene. The minor child’s consent must either occur in front of the judge or be acknowledged before a notary public in the presence of two witnesses.
Generally, the written consent of the mother is required in consent adoption cases. The mother’s consent must occur at least 48 hours after the child’s birth to be legally binding. If the father has legally vested his parental rights, his consent will also be required. Additionally, the law will require the consent of any other person who has legal custody of the child. However, a court does have the authority to not require consent in the following circumstances:
- The parent has deserted the child without means of identification. See Florida Adoption Law 63.064.
- A court of law has previously terminated the parent’s parental rights
- The parent has been legally declared incompetent
Revoking Consent to a Florida Stepparent Adoption
Consent to adoption should not be taken lightly. The consent to a Florida stepparent adoption may not be withdrawn on a mere whim or because of a change of heart. Under Florida law, consent to a Florida stepparent adoption may only be revoked if the consent was obtained by fraud or duress. See Florida Adoption Statute 63.082.
Absent fraud, duress, or undue influence a consent to adoption that is given voluntarily and freely is irrevocable. Further, the party wishing to revoke the consent has the burden of proving fraud or duress was present with clear and convincing evidence. Revocation of consent will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. Therefore, if you think you may be entitled to revoke a prior consent to adoption, you should contact a child custody lawyer in Florida for advice about your specific case.
Speak to a Family Attorney about an Adoption in Florida
If you are a step-parent who wants to adopt your step-children, the adoption lawyers at Florida Law Advisers, P.A., can help. We understand the delicate nature of adoption cases and are dedicated to ensuring our clients receive the compassionate and skilled legal representation they deserve. For more questions about step-parent adoptions in Florida or to schedule a free consultation with an adoption lawyer at our law firm please call us today.
Frequently Asked Questions
Typically, step-parent adoption is easier than a traditional adoption case. If the biological father consents to the adoption, it can be completed relatively quickly. An uncontested step-parent adoption may be completed in as little as one court hearing.
Generally, a child does not get to decide the result of a step-parent adoption case in Florida. However, the child’s preference can be a factor in the judge’s determination. Also, before a child can testify the judge must first approve the testimony of a minor.
Yes, the biological father does have a right to object to the adoption. In order to complete the step-parent adoption, the biological father’s rights must be terminated. The biological father’s consent is not required, but it can make the process easier.
No, a lawyer is not required for a step-parent adoption in Florida. However, the laws for adoption can be confusing and burdensome. Therefore, it is recommended to seek the aid of an attorney, even though it is not a requirement.