Written by Jonathan Breeden
Few issues are more volatile than those of child custody after a divorce. If you are your son or daughter’s non-custodial parent, you might experience more upset if your ex re-marries. One question you may have is, “what happens if my ex’s new spouse wants to legally adopt my child?”
Your ex and their new spouse may want to adopt your child for a variety of reasons. It may make navigating life easier, as the new spouse will then have legal rights regarding medical care and education needs. A stepparent adoption might be a way for them to form a family unit that doesn’t distinguish between the children of the union and those from previous relationships.
Any adoption can be complex. It is important to contact experienced North Carolina adoption lawyer if you are in a situation that involves possible adoption of a stepchild. To schedule a case consultation, contact Breeden Law Office at (919) 661-4970, or reach out through the online form.
To adopt a stepchild in North Carolina, your ex and their new spouse must have been married at least six months and must have legal and physical custody of the child. If those criteria are met, the legal process begins with a petition to the family court for the stepparent adoption.
Importantly, you must receive notice of any attempt to adopt your child. Even if your involvement has been lacking, or you are behind on child support, the process cannot move forward without notice to you, so that you can determine if you want to contest the adoption and the termination of your parental rights.
Keep in mind, however, that trying to hide from the notice won’t stop the process. The law allows notice through a newspaper advertisement if you cannot be found. Once that notice occurs, the adoption proceedings can continue without your presence or input.
Circumstances may exist that warrant your consent to a stepparent adoption. You may feel that you are unable to help support the child, moved far away, or simply feel it is in the best interest of your son or daughter to do so because of personal issues.
If you believe this is the case, you can agree to the adoption. By doing so, your parental rights will be terminated. Termination of your legal rights will end child support if you are paying it, but does not cure any arrearage. Once your parental rights end, you no longer have any say in matters involving your child. In some cases, you may be able to secure some visitation to maintain your connection to your son or daughter.
If you do not want to allow a stepparent adoption that terminates your parental rights, it is essential that you contact an attorney at Breeden Law Office right away. By working with a lawyer, you can most effectively respond to the petition for adoption.
Courts take termination of parental rights very seriously. Even parents with little-to-no contact with their children have legal rights. You can discuss your reasons for contesting the adoption and what factors might help preserve your rights with an experienced NC adoption attorney. They can help you understand the process and possible outcomes.
Stepparent adoption should be considered carefully. Beyond a non-related party accepting a change of legal responsibilities to the child, the non-custodial parent gives up all parental rights. For children old enough to understand what is happening and have some contact with the biological parent, stepparent adoption can be upsetting. Understanding this topic from all angles with the help of a lawyer at Breeden Law Office is a good first step.