All In The Family: The Process of Stepparent Adoption.
Stepparent adoption in Minnesota involves several basic steps:
Step 1: Terminating Parental Rights
Under Minnesota law, a child may only have two legally recognized parents. Assuming that both biological parents are still alive, this means that before a stepparent can adopt, the parental rights of one of the biological parents must be terminated. Note: Terminating parental rights also terminates parental responsibilities, including the obligation to pay child support.
If the biological parent is not involved in the child’s life, he or she may be willing to terminate parental rights voluntarily. To do so, the parent needs to sign a consent form in front of two valid witnesses and notary public. There is then a ten-day waiting period during which the parent can reverse the decision. Once the waiting period passes, the consent is legally binding.
If the biological parent refuses to sign the consent, you must petition the court for involuntary termination. This can be done in two ways: through a formal termination of parental rights (TPR) proceeding, or through a motion to find abandonment, as part of the adoption proceeding. In either case, you will have the burden of proving that the parent is either unfit, or has failed to establish or maintain a parent-child relationship.
Step 2: File a Petition for Adoption
The custodial biological parent then files an adoption petition, along with supporting paperwork on behalf of the stepparent. As part of the process, the stepparent will need to undergo a background check, including providing fingerprints to law enforcement.
Generally, the adoptive stepparent must be a resident of Minnesota for at least one year and pass a post-placement assessment. Upon motion, however, the court has the power to waive these requirements and often does.
Step 3: Court Hearing
Once all the paperwork has been filed, the court will set a hearing date. The custodial parent, the adoptive stepparent, and (usually) the child will attend. If necessary, a decision on motion for abandonment will be made and, if granted, the adoption may continue.
The parties will confirm that they wish the adoption to take place and that they understand the responsibilities they are taking on. If the adoptive child is fourteen years of age or older, he or she will also need to consent to the adoption. After this, the judge will sign the decree finalizing the adoption and the stepparent will become the stepchild’s legal parent, with the same rights and responsibilities as a biological parent.
To discuss stepparent adoption, or any family-law matter, contact Kruse Family Law PLLC at 612.231.9865 or email email@example.com.