If you have a blended family, one where each spouse has children from a previous relationship, knowing when to adopt your stepchildren can be challenging. Often, stepparents feel satisfied with their parental role in a blended family even when they aren’t the legal guardian of their spouse’s biological children.
As a stepparent, when you’re satisfied with your current family situation, it’s easy to assume putting adoption on the back burner is nothing to worry about. In certain situations, though, adopting your stepchildren is necessary for legal reasons. Below, we explain several things you should consider to determine the right time to legally adopt your stepchildren.
Are All Involved Parties Emotionally Ready for the Adoption?
Every family has different dynamics and circumstances that affect the emotional disposition of any child. Before you commit to adopting your stepchildren, you must make sure that you, your spouse, and the children are emotionally ready for the change.
Furthermore, you’ll need to make sure your stepchild’s other biological parent is emotionally ready to give his or her consent for the adoption. Getting voluntary consent from the children’s other biological parent is the best way to maintain a healthy extended-family dynamic. However, if relations with the other biological parent is tense, you may find it necessary to skip this step.
Don’t hesitate to ask your stepchildren how they feel about adoption or to discuss the benefits of becoming their custodial parent. Don’t assume!
Are You Financially Prepared to Adopt Your Stepchildren?
If you’re already living in a blended family, you no doubt provide for your stepchildren together with your spouse. But since you are not the children’s custodial parent, you hold no financial responsibility for their future well-being.
Legally adopting your stepchildren will make you financially liable for maintaining their well-being going forward. It will also make your stepchildren your legal heirs in the event that you fail to leave a will. If you’re ready to take on the financial responsibilities of having legal custody of your stepchildren, you should consider proceeding with their adoption.
Do You Want Legal Custody of Your Stepchildren?
When you live with your stepchildren but do not have custody of them, in the eyes of the law, you have no legal relation to those children. If your spouse — the children’s biological parent — dies before you, the court may prefer to place the children with their closest biological relative.
Depending on the extended-family situation, that person may end up being the children’s other biological parent. If that individual has been absent for a long time, the change in living situation can cause serious emotional challenges for the children. The best way to avoid potential custody issues like this is to pursue legal adoption. Adopting your stepchildren will also give you custodial rights in the event of a future divorce.
Do the Children Have a Neglectful or Potentially Dangerous Biological Parent?
If your spouse’s ex caused physical or emotional harm to the children or your spouse, it may be in everyone’s best interest to sever ties with that individual as promptly as possible. Since the other natural parent may retain some degree of legal custody, he or she may have certain decision-making rights regarding the children’s future.
Even if the children’s other natural parent appears not to care about such decisions presently, that doesn’t preclude the possibility of an attitude change. If you’re not willing to allow someone who has emotionally or physically harmed your stepchildren to make legal decisions about their well-being, pursue adoption.
Do You Want to Level the Playing Field in Your Household?
Sometimes, the dynamic between biological children and stepchildren can use some leveling. Property, finances, and other issues can create jealousy between children or contribute to misguided notions of superiority. If you want all of the children in your household to have equal rights to your property and finances, pursuing adoption is the best way to achieve that.
Adopting your stepchildren is a serious decision and one you should never take lightly. Beyond the considerations listed above, you’ll also need to obtain the right legal support to pursue the adoption process. At Setzer Law Firm, we’ve been practicing family law in Texas since 2001 and are dedicated to providing our clients with clear, straightforward guidance in legal custody cases. If you’re ready to pursue an adoption, call our Colleyville, TX office today at 817-767-1865 to discuss how we can help you.