Can a Stepparent Adopt a Child in Florida?
It is common for a single parent to want his or her significant other to adopt their child and take on the role of “Mom” or “Dad,” especially when the child’s other parent plays little to no role in the child’s life. In Florida, a stepparent has the right to adopt a child so long as he or she has proven to be an effective parent, and so long as they are legally married to one of the child’s lawful parents (Florida Statute 63.042 (2)(c)). At the Law Offices of Schwartz | White, our child custody lawyers can guide you on how to petition for stepparent adoption, and advise you on what you need to get from your child’s other lawful parent in order to make stepparent adoption a real possibility.
Petitioning for Stepparent Adoption in Florida
In order to petition for your significant other to become a legal parent of your child, the both of you must fill out and file a Petition for Adoption. Typically, the petition will request information regarding the child, and inquire as to the relationship between the child and the stepparent. Most importantly, the courts will want to know how long the stepparent has lived with the child, and the reasons for the stepparent wanting to adopt the child.
Filing the Petition for Adoption is just the very beginning of the process. The absent parent will be notified of the adoption and given the chance to contest it. If the absent parent does contest the adoption, then you have a long and arduous road ahead of you; however, if the absent parent does not reply, or replies with their consent, then the court will finalize the adoption and send in a request for a new birth certificate for the child, which will show the child’s new name and parents.
When the Absent Parent Contests the Adoption
If the absent parent contests the adoption, refuses to sign the consent form, or simply cannot be located, the custodial parent has the right to file for the termination of the other parent’s rights. Under Florida Statute 63.064, if a parent has been absent from a child’s life for long enough, the courts may just waive their consent to adoption and proceed with the procedure without interruption. A person who loses their right to consent may be one of the following:
- A parent who has deserted his or her child, or who has abandoned a child;
- A parent whose parental rights have been terminated by a court order;
- A parent who has been declared incompetent and for whom restoration of competency is medically improbable; or
- A parent, legal guardian, or lawful custodian who has failed to respond in writing to the request for consent to adoption for a period of 60 days.
While an absent parent loses his or her parental rights simply by being absent, the custodial parent must make sincere efforts to find the other lawful parent before the adoption can be finalized. If, after several attempts have been made to locate the absent parent the absent parent still does not surface to contest the adoption, the adoption may proceed as normal.
If the absent parent is found, they will be served copies of the adoption paperwork and given a chance to consent as indicated above.
Grounds for Automatic Termination of Parental Rights
Just as the courts can waive the need for consent to adoption, they can also order the automatic termination of one parent’s rights under the following conditions:
- The parent has abandoned his or her child;
- The parent has executed a surrender document witnessed by two witnesses;
- The parent has engaged in behavior that put the child at risk for harm, or that endangered the child’s life, safety, or health;
- The parent is incarcerated for a prolonged period of time;
- The child has been adjudicated dependent and the parent has not complied with the case plan filed with the court; or
- The parent has engaged in horrific conduct that threatened the health and well-being of the child and/or a sibling of the child.
Seek the Help of a Boca Raton Custody Attorney
At the Law Offices of Schwartz | White, our child custody attorneys want to help your family become whole again. If your child has an absent parent in his or her life, and if your significant other wants to step up and become a legal parent, our Boca Raton family law attorneys can guide you on the best and most efficient way to help them do this. To speak with a custody attorney, call our office at 561.391.9943 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation today.