In 2011, there were 3,252 adoptions that took place in the State of Florida. And many of these adoptions were by stepparents. If you’re a stepparent who wants to legally adopt your stepchild, here’s what you need to know.
In the state of Florida, you may adopt a child if you meet the following criteria:
- Good character
- Live and work within the state
- Ability to nurture and provide for a child
In a stepchild adoption, the first step is for the court to issue a judgment terminating the relationship of the biological parent and child. For a stepparent, there is no waiting period after this judgment. A stepparent is immediately eligible to finalize the adoption of a stepchild. Further, a stepparent can request a unified legal process in which the order terminating the biological parent’s rights occurs simultaneously with the finalization of the adoption.
If the child is at least 12 years of age, the child must consent to the adoption. If the child consents, he or she is interviewed prior to signing the consent form. As this is a significant life change, it is important that the child has a full understanding of the process and gives informed consent.
After the adoption, the stepparent has all the same rights and responsibilities that the biological parent previously held. This affects many legal areas, including wills and estates. The adoption process is long and complicated, but with a precious reward. If you’re contemplating adoption, a knowledgeable and experienced attorney can help you through the steps.