The Step-parent Adoption Process in Indiana
Since the majority of step-parents are male, this article is written for step-fathers. However, it works just as well if Mom is the step-parent. Simply, reverse the parental designation.
How to Legally Become Your Child's Full Parent
To take the "Step" out of parenting and become a full parent. That is a big step. You are interested. Like when a man and woman who have been living together decide to make it official. And commit themselves to each other.
Most people think a step-parent adoption will be relatively easy. You file papers, go to court, state what you want and the judge grants your wish. While this appears less complicated than an adoption from foster care, it is rarely that simple.
Filing the Petition
The step-parent seeking to adopt must do so in his home county. The petition should include his spouse's consent and the written consent of the birth parent. If the birth father or his whereabouts are not known, proper notice must be given, usually by publication in a newspaper.
Identifying and Finding the Birth Father
Legal fatherhood can be established if the parents were married when the child was conceived or adopted, if there is an affidavit of paternity filed at the hospital, or by court order. Or an unmarried mother may simply name the father. In special circumstances, the birth parent’s consent may not be required; for example, where there is convincing evidence that the birth parent is unfit. The judge will make a determination based upon whether the birth parent's consent is necessary.
Contested Court Hearings
If the birth parent’s consent is required and he does not agree, you will be facing a contested court hearing. Here, the best interests of the child become the most important criterion.
Granting the Adoption
To grant the adoption, the court must determine that proper notice was given, that all necessary consents were provided or there was sufficient evidence that consent was not necessary, that the adoption is in the child's best interest, that the petitioner is of sufficient ability to raise the child and provide suitable support and education, and that the petitioner is not prohibited from adopting due to certain criminal history.
What It Means
At the time the decree is issued, the birth parent's rights are effectively terminated and the step-parent becomes the child's parent for all purposes. The birth parent will no longer be required to pay child support but is still obligated on any payments still owed. If a request for a name change was included, the new name becomes effective when the adoption is granted. A new birth certificate can be requested.
Congratulations! Your full fatherhood no longer requires a "step" but is official.