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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
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    12

    Angry Grounds for Stepparent Adoption

    My question involves adoption law for the State of: New York

    This is long and somewhat complicated, but I would appreciate advice.

    I became pregnant with my son in college by my then-boyfriend; when I wouldn't consider an abortion or adoption, he told me I was on my own and left. He would get angry if I would call/text him during my pregnancy to update him. When I went into labor I called him, and he did show up at the hospital the next day WITH his new girlfriend, whom I'd never met. They stayed about 15 minutes and left. He refused to sign the paternity acknowledgement so I had to take him to court to establish paternity & get child support. He visited one more time a couple weeks later (also with his girlfriend), and that's been it. He texted me a couple times after my son was born to ask if he could take him for an entire weekend. He lived an hour away, and my son was a newborn (and I was breastfeeding him), so I said no. I said he was more than welcome to come visit and that him taking our son without me there was something we would work up to, when he had earned my trust and the baby was older. He would get angry and tell everyone I was keeping him from our son.

    My son is almost 3 now; this entire time, his father's family (who lives in MA) has been very involved. When he was younger I would go to their house and stay with the baby, and now that he's older, he goes there for a weekend every couple months. The only times he's seen my son is when they're having a family gathering and he happens to be there at the same time as my son. His sister (my son's aunt) tells me he has little to no interaction with my son. He's never pursued joint custody or visitation. He pays child support sporadically at best ($50/month is his obligation) because he changes jobs often, and I've just recently taken him to court for a violation. I keep him updated with my contact info but he never calls/texts.

    He is now married to the other woman and they have a 5-month-old. They live 3 hours away. I've just recently texted him to ask him if he plans to see our son at all and he gives me the same old crap ("I've been meaning to, I've just been busy, moving, etc"). I am getting married soon and my fiance would very much like to adopt my son. When I brought it up with my ex, he stopped answering my texts and now refuses to speak to me. I was hoping we could get him to sign over his rights willingly; my fiance has been there for my son, cares for him and helps me financially with him, and loves him like his own. I would never prevent his father from seeing him should he choose to, and of course I wouldn't cut him off from the family either.

    So I guess my question is, where do I go from here? Can I have his rights taken away so my soon-to-be-husband can adopt him, and if so, what steps do I take? The last time he saw my son was a couple months ago at his mom's birthday party and before that it was almost a year. He's currently facing a jail sentance if he doesn't pay me child support by the end of the month.

    Phew. Sorry; I tried to keep that as brief as possible - just wanted you to have all the info. I could go on and on.
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    9,085

    Default Re: Grounds for Stepparent Adoption

    The easiest way is to have the father agree.

    Unless he is deemed unfit, it will be difficult to have his paternal rights stripped. Since you have left him in a place for extended periods where he could appear, it appears you don't consider him a danger to the child.
    All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.
    - Mark Twain

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
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    12

    Default Re: Grounds for Stepparent Adoption

    Well, he lives 5 hours away from his family so he sees them rarely, and he still has gone for up to a year without seeing our son. If he does see him, it's a matter of coincidence, not any effort on his part, and he doesn't interact with him in those scenarios. I don't consider him a danger, but he hasn't been a father, either. I have a very good relationship with his sister & mother and it's only after spending a lot of time there with my son that I now let him go alone because he's older. And that's under the understanding that he's not to go anywhere with his father; I've not reason not to trust them on this. His sister agrees with me that his rights should be taken away, so I just wondered if I had a case for abandonment. Yes, I leave him in a place where his father COULD appear...but his father also COULD come see him when he's with me. I've told him multiple times that he will always be welcome...I've invited him to birthday parties & other special occassions...but he makes no effort. For a while he was living 15 minutes away and still didn't come visit. He doesn't have any contact with me whatsoever.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Somewhere near Canada
    Posts
    25,208

    Default Re: Grounds for Stepparent Adoption

    If he's paying child support - even sporadically - and turning up to see the child once in awhile, you cannot use abandonment as an issue.

    His sister's thoughts are completely irrelevant.
    An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise - Victor Hugo

    Do not microwave grapes

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
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    12

    Default Re: Grounds for Stepparent Adoption

    He's not "turning up to see the child", though.

    I read that abandonment consists of not seeing/paying support for a period of at least 6 months, which he's definitely been guilty of. I just can't see a judge considering seeing a child by chance once a year as being a parent. I mean, they are supposed to do what's in the best interest of the child. And no, legally what his sister thinks is not relevant, I was just trying to paint a better picture of him/the scenario. Also, as I said, he is going on 6 months not paying by support and will go to jail at the end of the month if he has not paid.

    I know courts are hesitant to take away parental rights but honestly, if they consider that the minimum requirements for parenting...that's pretty sad...

    From his failure to respond to my inquiries, I'm thinking that he won't be willing, so when it comes time I will consult a lawyer. It's just hard to find what the law actually says on the subject so I wondered if we had much of a case.

    Also, could I drop court-ordered support and would that help?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Somewhere near Canada
    Posts
    25,208

    Default Re: Grounds for Stepparent Adoption

    Dropping support won't help your case at all - if you drop support, he's not obliged to pay hence non-payment cannot be held against him.

    Contact a couple of times a year IS considered contact.

    No matter what, Dad has rights. He is not obligated to exercise those rights. If he doesn't pay support AND he doesn't make any contact for say 12 months, that's the time where you'd speak to an attorney and file for a stepparent adoption.
    An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise - Victor Hugo

    Do not microwave grapes

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: Grounds for Stepparent Adoption

    Yeah. Well, it's going to come to a point where he has no choice but to pay child support. Maybe I shouldn't have filed the violation, idk. I'm just trying to do what I feel is in my son's best interests...I would never keep his father from him or poison him against his father or anything like that. My stepdad adopted me when I was 3 but when my father decided to come into my life when I was older, my mom allowed it and I developed a relationship with him. I'm hoping he'll sign over rights willingly so he doesn't have to pay support anymore.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: Grounds for Stepparent Adoption

    So, since I posted this, my son's father called me once and asked me to sign over joint custody to him so that he, his wife, and their son could qualify for an apartment they were trying to get (they need to be a family of 4 to qualify, I guess). He didn't ask to talk to my son, didn't ask if he could visit, nothing. I obviously told him NO, and he indicated that he might go through the courts and petition. He called a couple days later asking if he could come and visit my son, and suddenly sent a check for the hundreds in arrears he owed me. I told him he could come visit if he wanted.

    Then, the day before he was supposed to come visit, he called and told me he wasn't coming - he said he's decided he doesn't want to visit my son, and that if my soon-to-be husband wants to adopt him, he will consent. He said he'll see my son when he's with his family (like he does now, about twice a year) and that's it. My fiance and I have our wedding ceremony planned for May, but we decided to go to the courthouse this week and get married in front of a judge so we can proceed with the adoption before he has a chance to change his mind again. My question is, do we need a lawyer if he is going to consent? I'm not sure how complicated the proceedings are for a stepparent adoption...is it something we can just go to the court ourselves and file papers for?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Somewhere near Canada
    Posts
    25,208

    Default Re: Grounds for Stepparent Adoption

    Yes, please go to a local adoption attorney. Just to make sure everything is done correctly - you don't want it to be overturned on a technicality.

    I will warn you though, the court may not approve an adoption when you've only been married a short while - the court wants to see stability. So yes, get married now and then this time next year all three of you head down to a local attorney.
    An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise - Victor Hugo

    Do not microwave grapes

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: Grounds for Stepparent Adoption

    As far as I'm aware, NY doesn't require you to be married for a certain period of time before the stepparent can adopt - and if the father is willing, and he's obviously not stable, why would they deny it? We've also been living together for a while, just not legally married, and my fiance has acted as a father to my son and supports him financially.

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