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  1. #1

    Default Help Me Adopt My Stepchildren

    I am the stepmother of my husbands two children, an 11-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl, whom we have had since birth. The natural Mother is currently in prison for abusing the boy, and will be there for several more years - it was bad. I wish to adopt the children in case something happens to my husband, so that the children will be able to remain with me and so that their natural mother won't be able to intrude in our lives.

    We understand that to proceed with adoption we must first have the natural mothers legal rights terminated. How do we do that? I have been told we will have problems because she is in prison in another state. I know that I have no legal right to the children, and our daughter has only known me as her mother. The boy wants me to adopt him.

    I have also been told that in a step-parent adoption, the legal parent (my husband) would have to give up his rights as well. Is that the case?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2004

    Default Adopting your step-children

    Dear Rachel,

    The biggest complication with the case would likely be that the mother is incarcerated in another state, but that the court proceedings to terminate her rights would be in the state where the children live. That is probably why somebody suggested that termination of her parental rights (at least, involuntary termination) is unlikely to occur - the cost and burden of transporting the mother to and from the other state so that she could attend court hearings would presumably be quite high, and very difficult to arrange.

    It is not true that in stepparent adoption the natural parent must give up parental rights. That is sometimes necessary in "same sex adoption" cases, where two women or two men seek to be the legal parents of the biological child of one of them, but that's very different from your situation.

    The best solution may be to seek a modification of custody under your state's law. While such a proceeding is not the same as an adoption, within certain limits most state courts are empowered to grant custody to "third parties" at the conclusion of custody litigation. It is possible that a judge would be convinced to grant you and your husband custody of the children, such that you would have continuing rights if something happened to your husband, even if the natural mother's parental rights remain intact.

    This might be a bit complicated to achieve - assuming you otherwise qualify, depending upon the judge and state law, it might be necessary to educate the judge as to the applicable law, and to overcome some natural resistance to awarding custody to a third party. Also, if the original custody order was not issued in your state, you would have to petition for a transfer of jurisdiction to your state's courts before you can petition to modify custody in your state.

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