Blended families have become the norm in the U.S., with over 50% of all families today remarried or re-coupled. As such, a large number of children in Kansas and around the globe reside with stepparents. Each day, around 1,300 new stepfamilies are created. Some researchers believe more stepfamilies exist today than original families.
Following remarriage, stepparents often wish to adopt their new spouse’s children as their own. Stepparent adoptions are the most common form of adoption. It is a fantastic way to create a legal link between a parent and child that would not otherwise exist.
Stepparent adoptions are generally far simpler than other types of adoption. However, certain scenarios will create challenges. One such obstacle is the refusal of the absent parent to consent to the adoption. In a typical stepparent adoption, the stepparent will file a petition including basic information about yourself and the child. Attached will be a written consent to adopt signed by both parents. With these essentials complete, the adoption will proceed without a hitch. Absent one parent’s consent, however, the matter becomes more complex.
When a stepparent adoption is granted in Kansas, it will actually terminate the rights of the non-custodial parent. This means the biological parent will have no right to visit the child or make decisions concerning his or her education or medical treatment. For some biological parents, this poses no obstacle as they recognize the adoption is in their child’s best interests. For others, however, giving up rights to their child is not something they are willing to do.
The good news for stepparents wishing to adopt their stepchildren is that there are ways to continue the adoption without the non-custodial parent’s consent. This will require obtaining a court order that terminates the rights of this parent.
Several grounds exist for termination of parental rights, including:
- Abandonment—requires a showing that the absent parent has not provided support or exercised parental duties in the prior two years. An occasional child support payment or visit will not prevent termination.
- Unfitness of the non-custodial parent—this can be demonstrated based on: a mental deficiency or mental illness that makes the parent potentially harmful to the child; felony conviction and imprisonment; or extended placement of the child outside of the home, among others.
- Proving the absent parent is not the presumed father—if the absent parent is male, another common way to obtain a termination of parental rights is to show the individual is not, legally speaking, the presumed father of the child. In Kansas, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if married to the mother or if: the man has acknowledged paternity in writing; the man is listed on the birth certificate, with his consent; or genetic testing demonstrates he is the father, along with a few other recognized grounds. Rather than trying to establish the father has abandoned the child, you can show he does not meet the requirements of a presumed father, which will allow the court to terminate his parental rights and proceed with the adoption absent his consent.
When an absent biological father refuses to consent to a stepparent adoption, the adoption will become more complex but is still a viable option. Consulting with an experienced stepparent adoption early on will help to ensure your ultimate success.
McDowell Chartered: Helping Stepparents to Complete Their Families Throughout Kansas
The Kansas Family Law Attorneys at McDowell Chartered have devoted decades to bringing families together. Our years of experience allow us to guide you seamlessly through a stepparent adoption. Call us today at (316) 633-4322 to schedule your initial consultation.