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How to adopt your stepchildren

Stepparents in New York state do not have automatic parental rights to their stepchildren. Unfortunately, divorcing your spouse can lead to a painful end to the close bond you share with your stepchild.

Fortunately, adoption is a way to ensure you remain in your stepchild’s life.

What are the requirements for stepparent adoptions?

Before pursuing adoption you must be legally married to the child’s custodial parent. Also, unless the legal or biological non-custodial parent is deceased, you must obtain that person’s approval before the adoption can proceed. Consent requires relinquishing all parental rights. This step is unnecessary if the parent refuses to acknowledge a legal relationship with the child. Finally, New York requires children over age 14 to give their written consent to adoption, showing they understand what it means.

What steps follow parental approval?

After meeting the basic requirements for stepparent adoption, the New York court must determine that adoption is in the child’s best interests. Therefore, your county’s social services department may order a home study. Next, the state Division of Child Protection and Permanency will run your fingerprints through the state child abuse registry. You must also consent to a background check to uncover potential red flags that could interfere with the adoption. The final step involves attending an adoption hearing in your county, where the court grants you legal parental rights to your stepchild.

Stepparent adoptions provide stepchildren with a sense of security and belonging that can positively impact their development. Adoptive parents also benefit from bonds that deepen as their stepchild enters adulthood.

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