parent and child in adoption office

What You Should Know About Stepparent and Second Parent Adoptions

In Oregon, any person can petition to adopt another person. That includes stepparents, relatives or a person unrelated to the child, single persons, married and unmarried couples of any sex, gender identity can adopt. There are however residency requirements, which means that in Oregon, one of the parties involved (the adopting parent, placement parent, or individual being adopted) must have been an Oregon resident for at least 6 months prior to filing for the adoption. Residence can exclude occasional times when the person was temporarily absent from the State.

Stepparent and second parent adoptions are commonly done when the person adopting the child has a relationship with the biological parent of the child. This person is often the spouse of the biological parent (a stepparent), or another relative or person in a relationship, but not married to the biological parent (a second parent). In either case, the biological parent in this relationship does not lose their parental status as a result of the adoption.

It is a part of life for many people to find themselves remarried with stepchildren, or in a relationship with a partner with a child. If you find yourself in either of these situations, at some point, it is only natural to ask yourself, “Do I want to adopt my stepchild (or my partner’s child)?” While only you can answer this question, it is important to understand that adoption is permanent, and you cannot change your mind should you and your spouse later decide to divorce or separate.

Adopting a stepchild may not be right for all stepparents, however, a stepparent adoption can bring some extraordinary benefits in the lives of the stepchild, the stepparent, and the spouse of the stepparent. Some of these can be your having the right to share in decisions and be involved in the stepchild’s life, minimizing the influence of a difficult biological parent and demonstrating both parents’ ongoing devotion to their child. So, before deciding to adopt, you should make certain that you are prepared to love and honor a lifelong commitment to your adopted stepchild.

However, there is more to adoption, even an adoption of a stepchild, than just signing some papers. Before a stepparent (or second parent) adoption can be granted, a background check – usually done by the State Police or Child Protective Services – must be made on the adopting parent, as well as any other adults living in the home (other than the parent). This includes a criminal-records check and a child abuse check on the prospective adopting parent. Depending on the outcome of these checks, the court may require a home study by a licensed adoption agency. The requirement for a home study may be waived in stepparent or second parent adoptions, where one of the child’s birth parents retains parental rights.

If a home study is ordered, Generally, in Oregon, it must be approved by either the Department of Human Services or an Oregon licensed adoption agency. It must show that the adopting parent meets the minimum standards for adoptive homes as set forth in the department’s administrative rules.

However, before the adoption can go through, in most adoptions both biological parents need to give their permission for the stepparent to adopt their child. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as a biological parent’s neglect, incarceration, or showing the court that a biological parent is unable or unfit to be the parent.

When a parent does not give consent, they must be served with a notice of the adoption. They then have a right to object to the adoption in court. However, if the parent who was served with notice fails to object or fails to appear at the hearing on their objection, the court can grant the adoption without their consent. Additionally, if the court determines that the parent has deserted, abandoned, or neglected the child, or should have their parental rights terminated by being unable or unfit to be the parent, the court can grant the adoption without their consent.

In addition to getting the biological parents’ consent, if the stepchild is over the age of 14, they must also give their written consent to the adoption. The child must also understand that the adoption will mean that the other birth parent will no longer be a legal part of their life.

So, what is the legal effect of a stepparent or second parent adoption? The act of adopting creates a parent-child relationship between the person being adopted and his or her adoptive parent. This means that the adopting parent or parents takes on all the legal responsibilities to care for and support the child as if they were the natural birth parents of that child.

Adopting also usually totally terminates such a relationship with the former parent. However there are exceptions to this effect when the adoption is a stepparent adoption, a second parent adoption or the adoption of an adult.

If a name change is requested in the petition for adoption, the court entering a judgment granting the adoption can also provide in the judgment for the change of the name without the normal notices required for a name change. The change can be to a completely new name, including hyphenated names, compound names, names different from the parents’ last names and simple spelling changes. However, if a child is 14 or older, he or she must also consent to the name change.

Adopting an adult stepchild is often done to legalize a parent-child relationship that the parties have had over the years. It is not necessary to obtain consent from the adoptee’s former parents. Background checks and a home study is also not generally required, however there does need to be sufficient information presented to show the court that the adoption is being done for legitimate and not fraudulent reasons. Adult adoptions do require consent of the person being adopted.

If for any reason stepparent or second parent adoption is not an option, there are still measures a stepparent can take to provide the child with some legal security and financial stability. They can create a will naming the stepchild/second parent child as a beneficiary, which may also include a guardianship for the child’s inheritance. They can also set up a non-revokable trust for the stepchild’s benefit. Additionally, the stepparent/second parent can include the child as a beneficiary under insurance plans, investment accounts and other financial documents.

If you would like to know more about stepparent and second parent adoptions, our firm is here to help. Call us today at (503) 227-0200 to set up your free consultation with one of our seasoned attorneys.