The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute reported that families in the United States adopted 53.500 children in 2021, and many of those adoptions were by stepparents. Adopting a stepchild is a significant step, signifying the legal and emotional blending of a family.
In Ohio, the process to adopt a stepchild involves several legal steps and a deep commitment to take on the parental responsibilities for your spouse’s child. Whether you are starting this journey out of love, necessity or both, understanding the state-specific procedures that you must follow can make this complex path smoother.
Consent and legal clearance
The first step in adopting your stepchild is to obtain consent from the non-custodial biological parent. This is often the most important step, as it involves the legal relinquishment of their parental rights. If the other parent does not consent, you must seek a court ruling on the termination of their rights, which generally occurs only under specific circumstances, such as abandonment or failure to provide support.
File the petition
After securing consent or a court order terminating the other parent’s rights, you must file an adoption petition with the county probate court. The petition is a formal request to the court for permission to adopt your stepchild and includes necessary information about you, your spouse, the child and the non-custodial parent.
Home study and background checks
A home study and background checks follow the petition filing. These are standard procedures to ensure the child’s safety and well-being. A social worker will visit your home to evaluate the living conditions and the family dynamic. Both you and your spouse will undergo background checks to confirm there are no issues that could pose a risk to the child.
Finalize the adoption
Once you clear the home study and background checks, the court will schedule a hearing. During this hearing, you will provide testimony confirming your desire and ability to care for the child. If the judge is satisfied that the adoption is in the child’s best interest, they will issue a final decree of adoption.
After the judge grants the adoption, you can obtain a new birth certificate for the child with your name listed as a parent. You also need to update other records, such as school and medical records, to reflect the new legal relationship.
The process of adopting stepchildren involves careful consideration and a legal acknowledgment of the parent-child relationship you have built. By following these steps and upholding the child’s best interests, you can ensure a successful adoption that fortifies the bonds of your blended family.