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Stepparent adoption: What if the other parent doesn't consent?

There are many reasons why a stepparent may want to adopt his or her stepchild. You may have your own personal reasons for making this decision for yourself and your family. However, if the other biological parent does not offer his or her consent to your wish to adopt, you could face some serious roadblocks.

The only way to get around a non-consensual birth parent in a stepparent adoption scenario is to attempt to terminate the other parent's parental rights.

Terminating the rights of a non-consensual birth parent

The main ways to terminate the parental rights of a non-consensual birth parent is to prove that:

-- He or she has abandoned your stepchild: You can prove abandonment by showing that the biological parent has failed to communicate with your stepchild for an extended period of time. Alternatively, the parent may have failed to give financial support.

-- He or she is unfit as a parent: You can prove parental unfitness by conducting what is called a "fitness hearing." During the fitness hearing, you can try to show that the parent is neglectful, abusive, mentally unstable, does not regularly visit the child, has a substance addiction or is currently in prison. Unfitness is grounds for stripping an individual of his or her parental rights.

-- He or she is not, in fact, the biological parent of the child: Showing that the other parent is not the biological parent can be a means of nullifying someone's parental rights. This is only possible in the case of fathers, since the mother of children is generally well documented in hospital records.

Negotiating with the birth parent

In a lot of cases, a birth parent may be willing to negotiate and talk with a stepparent about the prospects of adopting his or her child. Sometimes, all that's required is a little bit of friendly diplomacy to show that your intentions are well-placed and you're fully able and willing to take on the responsibility of raising and providing for your stepchild.

If you want to adopt your stepchild, you may want to discuss the idea with a Maryland child custody lawyer to familiarize yourself with the law as it will apply to your particular situation.

Source: Nov. 30, -0001

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