Helping Step-Parents in Maryland Through Every Step of the Adoption Process
When two parents of a child are non-married or divorced, there is a good chance that are that one will remarry in the future and the new step-parent will form a close relationship with the child. However, no matter how close they may be, the step-parent will not have the same legal parental rights as a biological parent. The step-parent will not have the ability to make important decisions for the child or to have visitation or custody rights should the current marriage come to an end. In order to better preserve the family unit and ensure the step-parent has parental rights, many couples consider the process of step-parent adoption.
The Basics of Step-Parent Adoption
The process of step-parent adoption tends to be procedurally easier than traditional adoption for several reasons. First, the step-parent is married to one of the child's biological parents and, in most cases, already lives with the child. For this reason, extensive home visits are generally not necessary as they would be if two non-biological parents were seeking the adoption. Additionally, there are not the same waiting periods or court hearings necessary in step-parent adoption cases.
A step-parent petitions the court for adoption and, if approved, the step-parent will be granted full parental rights and responsibilities. Additionally, however, the parental rights and responsibilities of the biological parent outside the marriage will be terminated once the adoption is final. This termination of rights can cause some complications in a step-parent adoption case.
The Requirements and Conditions for Step-Parent Adoption
Because of the termination of the biological parent's rights, Maryland law requires that the step-parent obtains consent from the biological parent if they are still alive. In many cases, this can be an emotionally-charged situation as the biological parent may not want to effectively be replaced. They may not want to give up their rights to make important health care and educational decisions for their child or to have the ability to visit their child. For these reasons, obtaining consent can be challenging.
If the biological parent refuses to consent, there are ways to continue with the adoption. For example, the following are options:
- Proving that the biological parent has abandoned the child by demonstrating they do not contact the child, foster a relationship with the child, or exercise their parental duties;
- Proving that the biological parent (if it is the father) does not meet the requirements of a legal “presumed father.” This can be successful when the biological parents were never married, the father is not on the child's birth certificate, and/or the father has not ever tried to legally establish paternity.
If the biological parent is notified of the petition for adoption and simply chooses not to respond, they court may continue to grant the adoption as long as it determines the adoption is in the best interest of the child.
In some cases, a biological parent will consent to a step-parent adoption because it will terminate their parental responsibility to pay child support or because they simply believe it is the best thing for the child. In such situations, Maryland does have a 30-day period in which the parent can revoke their consent to the adoption.
Call for a Consultation Today
Though step-parent adoptions in Maryland are often simpler and more straightforward than other types of adoption, there can be complications that may arise. You do not want to risk not meeting a requirement or conditions for the adoption which could result in the process being significantly delayed or denied. These types of adoptions can involve sensitive emotions and the quality of your relationship with your step-child can depend on the success of the adoption process.
For these reasons, anyone considering step-parent adoption should not hesitate to consult with a experienced Maryland family law attorney. At The Law Office of Thomas K. Mallon, LLC, we have helped many children and parents finalize legal adoptions of this kind. Thomas Mallon is wholly committed to every case and will give your family the dedicated attention it deserves throughout every step of the legal process. Please call today at 410-847-9075 to learn more about how we can help you.