Under Missouri law, when a stepparent adopts their stepchild, the stepparent becomes just as much of a parent as the biological parent, as if the child were born to the stepparent. That includes financial obligations for the child and any determination of custody in the event of a divorce from the biological parent, as well as rights for inheritance of that parent’s property upon their death. Here are five things you should know about stepparent adoption:
The Rights of the Non-Participating Biological Parent Must Be Terminated
The parenting rights of the other biological parent must be terminated for a stepparent adoption to be finalized. This can be achieved by that parent giving their consent to the adoption or by the court terminating their rights without their consent. Whether their rights can be terminated depends on your family’s specific situation and affects how your case proceeds.
The Residency Requirement
Missouri law requires that the stepchild has been living with and in the physical custody of the stepparent for at least six months. If the stepparent and stepchild have been residing together less than six months, it is still possible to have all of the necessary paperwork drafted and ready for filing upon the six-month mark, so delaying a meeting with an adoption attorney is not necessary.
Background Checks are Necessary
The court requires a stepparent background check to review criminal history and whether there are any reports or history with child abuse or neglect. If the background check produces any issues, the court will require further explanation.
The Court Will Appoint a Guardian ad Litem for the Child
A Guardian ad Litem is an attorney appointed by the court for the child who is going to be adopted. The Guardian ad Litem represents the best interests of the child. Typically, the Guardian ad Litem will meet with the child and the stepparent once before the adoption hearing date and will provide their recommendation for adoption to the court.
Adoption Day is the Best Day!
Adoption day is truly a day to celebrate! Your case will be set for a finalization hearing on a specific date and time. Plan on taking off work and school so that you can celebrate as a new family. Once the adoption is finalized, the child will receive a new birth certificate from the state acknowledging the stepparent as a parent.