Stepparent Adoption in South Carolina
Stepparent adoption is when a child is adopted by their biological parent’s spouse. In most cases, the stepparent has already functioned as a parent, establishing a deep and meaningful relationship with the child. Undergoing the legal process of adopting the child seems like a natural step to growing as a family, but stepparent adoptions can be complicated.
At Indigo Family Law, we have personal experience in the adoption process, in addition to being skilled as stepparent adoption lawyers. We can help you manage the legal hurdles that may leave you frustrated and confused. Our firm is committed to aiding families across the state in all areas of family law. Contact us when you need professional representation for a stepparent adoption in South Carolina.
Why Choose Indigo Family Law for Your Stepparent Adoption Process?
Not only do we have a significant background in managing adoption cases for our clients, but the attorneys at Indigo Family Law have experienced many of the hurdles you may face. Our founder, Brana Williams, and her spouse have adopted six children of their own, spending years navigating the process. She brings a complete understanding of the emotions and concerns you may have as you consider a stepparent adoption.
Our firm offers a valuable combination of skill, integrity, and honesty in all our client dealings. We believe in being honest and straightforward at all times, telling the pleasant and not-so-pleasant details so that our clients are fully prepared. We always strive for the best outcome possible and will interpret the law to your advantage.
Many law firms advertise that they are the best at what they do, but at Indigo Family Law, we know that word of mouth beats billboards and TV ads. Our clients trust us to always do right by them and put their interests ahead of everything else. You are more than a paycheck to us, and we want to be the law firm that you return to whenever you need reliable and experienced legal counsel.
Stepparent Adoption Explained
Spending time with your spouse’s biological child allows you to develop a strong bond and function as a parent in their lives. However, to legally become their parent, there are many steps you must undertake. South Carolina only allows two legal parents for a child, so in addition to bringing stability and safety to the child’s life, you must obtain and file specific paperwork that grants you parental rights for the child.
One of the first steps is getting a termination of parental rights from the other biological parent. This is often a complex and challenging action. The laws applying to adoption can be confusing, which is why it will benefit you to speak with qualified stepparent adoption attorneys to begin the process.
Stepparents have few rights for the children they put their love, time, and energy into unless they adopt. In addition to having a legal say in matters such as education and upbringing, there are many other reasons to consider adopting your stepchild:
- Protection for the children if your spouse dies: The death of your spouse could throw you into a heated custody battle with the other biological parent. Instead of losing the children completely, you can strengthen your claim with a legal parent-child relationship.
- Secure financial benefits: With a legal relationship, you can claim your stepchildren on your taxes, get insurance benefits, and establish your children’s right to inherit from you. They are also eligible for Social Security benefits under your name.
- Simplify everyday parenting jobs: Schools and doctor’s offices may not allow you to pick up children or take them to appointments without legal status as a parent. Stepparent adoption gives you the right to do these daily tasks, as well as make medical decisions and have input into education choices for them.
- Provide better stability for your family: Many children grow to adulthood with a stepparent who does not have legal rights, but adopting your spouse’s children can increase the sense of stability and completeness for your family.
Adoption by a stepparent does not change their spouse’s rights over the children. It simply removes the rights of the other biological parent and grants parental rights to the stepparent. As an adoptive stepparent, you will be responsible for the children in all matters, even during separation or divorce.
Stepparent Adoption Is a Complex Process
To begin adopting your stepchild in South Carolina, you will need to seek termination of the other biological parent’s parental rights to the child. If your spouse is the child’s mother and was not married to the child’s father, she may already have full legal and physical custody.
The unmarried birth father is not automatically granted parental rights and must establish paternity through genetic testing or by obtaining a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment from the mother.
If consent from the biological parent is gained, your next step is to file a petition with the family court. You will need to include documentation for the parental rights termination, consent from your spouse as the biological parent, and consent from the child if they are 14 years old or older. You will be given a court date before a judge. At this stepparent adoption hearing, questions will be asked of you, your spouse, and the child (over 14) to verify your intentions. Once the judge approves the petition, your adoption is complete.
Stepparent Adoption Without the Biological Parent’s Consent
What if the biological parent does not wish to sign away their rights to the child? In some cases, the family court may be able to terminate their rights if this action is in the best interests of the child.
You, as the stepparent, and your spouse, as the child’s biological parent, can petition the court to terminate the parental rights involuntarily for reasons such as:
- The parent has abandoned the child.
- The parent had chosen or wilfully not visited the child for a minimum of six months when they were not prevented from visiting by a court order.
- The parent has not provided child support for at least six months, and no factors have limited his ability to pay.
- The parent was convicted of or confessed to crimes such as homicide or assault of another child.
- The parent has a diagnosed alcohol or drug addiction problem that does not seem likely to resolve anytime soon.
- The parent’s home is unsafe such that the child is neglected or in danger when they are there.
An additional approach is to consider whether the purported father is not actually the biological father. If there is a chance of this, we can assist you in requesting court-ordered genetic testing to prove or disprove paternity. If the person who claims to be the father of the child is not, we can pursue other avenues to show that the individual does not have parental rights if they were not married to the mother.
How Indigo Family Law Manages Your Stepparent Adoption Case
Our adoption attorneys have handled thousands of cases over the years for all kinds of families. Although you are farther along the path of building your family because you are already a stepparent, there are still questions you may have about adoption. We strive to help you feel comfortable and confident that you have made the right choice when you come to us for help.
We offer important services throughout each step of the process, including:
- Education and consultation: We will meet with you to discuss your circumstances and explain how stepparent adoption works in South Carolina. We address your worries, answer your questions, and begin planning our approach.
- Paperwork and legal deadlines: Once we have a strategy, our team will manage all the legal tasks, such as correctly completing the paperwork and meeting all critical deadlines the family court requires.
- Termination of parental rights: We will perform the necessary actions to negotiate the termination of parental rights from the child’s father, advising you on our progress and any additional work that needs to be done.
- Finalizing the adoption in court: We will be with you every step of the way, preparing you for what to expect during your adoption finalization hearing. We will notify you of the date and time and represent you before the judge.
Stepparent adoption is a very exciting time, but it can be full of stops and starts. Indigo Family Law works to reduce your stress and minimize any delays so you can begin celebrating your closer family bonds as soon as possible.
How Stepparent Adoption Differs From Traditional Adoption
The South Carolina Adoption Act outlines who can adopt and the specifics of that process. Stepparents are covered under this act and do not have to face many of the hurdles as those who seek an infant or a child in foster care. However, stepparent adoptions are taken no less seriously by the courts, and all your information will be closely examined to verify that this action is in the best interests of the child.
Some differences between stepparent adoptions and traditional adoptions of infants or children in foster care include:
- You are already parenting the child you want to adopt: Your adoption process is much faster because you do not have to locate a child who is a fit for your family. Raising your spouse’s child helps you develop the deep bond that often takes years to build, and you are simply formalizing the relationship legally.
- No home study is required: This in-depth assessment of those wishing to adopt is waived for stepparent adoptions. There are no background checks, home visits, or interviews unless required by the family court.
- You do not need to file an accounting of your adoption expenses: Parents adopting an infant must report their costs associated with the adoption process to the family court. As a stepparent, you can skip this step.
- Your finalization hearing is held faster: Adoptions in South Carolina typically have a 90-day waiting period between filing the adoption petition and finalizing the adoption. This is waived for stepparent adoptions.
Once you complete the adoption, you and your family can get back to enjoying your lives together with the added knowledge that you have a new level of protection and stability. Once your stepchild is legally adopted, you can update your important documents, such as wills, insurance policies, and healthcare coverage, to include them as beneficiaries.
By relying on the skilled stepparent adoption attorneys at Indigo Family Law, you can expect your case to conclude about six months from the time you first speak with an attorney. This time period can vary widely, however, depending on how difficult it is to locate the other biological parent and secure the release of their rights.
Turn to Indigo Family Law for Your Stepparent Adoption Case
When you have made the decision to adopt your stepchild, you want to ensure your family is strong, stable, and protected. You and your spouse can deepen your connections with their children by taking this valuable legal step to solidify your family. Even with few obstacles, you need the experienced and compassionate services of a highly-skilled attorney who understands stepparent adoption in South Carolina.
At Indigo Family Law, we offer a full range of family law services. Once you have completed your adoption with us, we can work with you to create or update your last will and testament. Our team can prepare the paperwork needed to file for a name change for an adopted child or manage any other legal adjustments you choose to pursue. We want you to turn to us whenever you need qualified and caring guidance on matters of the law.
Our team focuses on serving our community with integrity and dedication to each client throughout each case for the best possible outcome. We are a small boutique firm that understands the strongest attorney-client relationships are built with trust and understanding. Contact us today to begin your journey toward a successful stepparent adoption.