The Consequences of Delaying Stepparent Adoption in North Carolina

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Navigating stepparent adoption in North Carolina can be complex and fraught with challenges. While it’s natural for a parent to think, “I want my husband/wife/partner to adopt my son or daughter,” understanding the process and its requirements is critical because a delay can lead to unforeseen consequences impacting your family’s future.

This blog from an experienced adoption attorney in North Carolina guides parents through the stepparent adoption process and warns about the unintended consequences that could arise from postponing the stepparent adoption process. Continue reading to learn more about stepparent adoptions, then contact us at (919) 306-2899 to schedule a free, 15-minute consultation.

What Does Stepparent Adoption Entail in North Carolina?

According to the Pew Research Center, 15% of children in the U.S. live with parents in a remarriage, and 7% live with cohabitating parents, creating a need and desire for stepparent adoption. Many parents in second marriages desire to adopt their spouse’s child to strengthen the parent-child relationship and seek the information they need to fulfill their adoption request.

An experienced adoption attorney in North Carolina can help a stepparent adopt the child, understand the law concerning adoption, know his or her rights, and move through the adoption process in a straightforward and beneficial manner that upholds the child’s best interests and takes into account all relevant circumstances.

What Do North Carolina Stepparent Adoption Laws Require?

The laws concerning stepparent adoptions in North Carolina require the following:

  • The stepparent must be married to the child’s biological parent for six months or longer.

If the stepparent and biological parent have not been married for at least six months, North Carolina law requires them to reach that six-month milestone before embarking on adoption. If you have not celebrated two years of marriage, the state may require an approved assessment, although the clerk can waive this requirement.

  • The other biological parent must terminate their parental rights.

For your spouse to begin stepparent adoption, take on a parental role in a child’s life, and assume legal rights and responsibilities for the child, the other parent must terminate parental rights.

If the child’s non-custodial parent is absent in the child’s life or challenges the stepparent adoption, your adoption attorney can follow specific legal processes for adopting. They will evaluate your unique circumstances, advise you on the steps involved, and help you track down the non-custodial parent who may have been missing for a significant period to encourage them to terminate parental rights and consent to the adoption.

  • In North Carolina, a child 12 years of age or older must sign a consent to stepparent adoption.

Once the adoption becomes final, the other biological parent, whose parental rights have been terminated, does not have an obligation to pay ongoing child support. However, the biological parent who agreed to terminate parental rights must pay any unpaid child support they owe even after the completion of the stepparent adoption.

Generally, stepparent adoptions in North Carolina require:

  1. Contacting an experienced adoption attorney
  2. Obtaining the necessary consent from the other birth parent and filing completed forms
  3. Submitting a stepparent adoption petition to your local court
  4. Attending a finalization court hearing, if necessary, although a court date for a hearing may not be required

Same-Sex Couples and Adoption in North Carolina

Same-sex couples may wish to adopt a child as the child’s stepparent if they cannot adopt jointly as an LGBT couple, if one partner adopts a child, or if they finished an assisted reproductive technology process. As noted, a stepparent adoption in North Carolina can only take place if the adopting stepparent has been married to their spouse for at least six months.

Regrettably, North Carolina currently does not permit second-parent adoptions, meaning unmarried same-sex couples cannot undergo an adoption that would secure the non-biological parent’s rights to their child. Although a non-biological parent who has cared for the child with the consent and support of a legal parent may be eligible to pursue custody, they cannot obtain the same rights and protections as a legal parent through adoption.

Three Requirements for Stepparent Adoption in North Carolina

For a stepparent to adopt a child in North Carolina, they must:

  1. Be married to the other parent for six months or more
  2. Obtain consent from the other biological parent who does not have custody
  3. Get an assessment or waiver of assessment from the district court clerk if you do not meet the two-year marriage requirement

Consequences of Delaying Stepparent Adoptions in North Carolina

Delaying stepparent adoptions can have significant long-term legal implications and lead to several potential issues. For the stepparent, it may mean living with uncertainty about their legal relationship with the child they are helping to raise. They may lack the legal authority to decide on behalf of the child in critical areas such as education and medical care.

For the child, the delay can create instability and confusion about their family structure. They may also miss out on benefits like health insurance coverage, inheritance rights, and social security that accompany legal recognition as the child of the stepparent.

If the biological parent married to the stepparent becomes unable to care for the child due to illness or death, the stepparent may not have the legal right to continue caring for the child. It could result in the child being placed with the other biological parent or even in foster care in some situations.

Moreover, delays can potentially lead to ongoing legal battles, especially if relationships between the parties deteriorate. It can also complicate custody arrangements, particularly in cases where the stepparent and biological parent separate or divorce before the adoption is finalized.

Given these potential risks, it’s crucial for those considering stepparent adoptions in North Carolina to begin the process as soon as they can.

Mills Adoption Law Has Experience for What Matters Most: Family

When a stepparent wants to adopt the child they are raising with their spouse, it’s crucial to seek guidance from an experienced adoption lawyer who can help navigate the complexities of the adoption process and avoid unnecessary delays. With 35 years of experience, adoption lawyer Bobby Mills has seen things and can anticipate problems others in his field will not anticipate. Contact him at (919) 306-2899 or complete the online form to schedule a free, 15-minute consultation.

Copyright © 2023. Mills Adoption Law. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

Mills Adoption Law
4600 Marriott Dr, Ste 350
Raleigh, NC 27612
(919) 306-2899 

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