Any child is lucky if they have a loving, caring adult in their lives, but some are so loved that their stepfather wants to make that love official through adoption. It's common to want to adopt your spouse's child and knowing the laws surrounding the situation as a stepfather can help you and your family get through the process easier.
Understand the significance in adopting a stepchild. It's not just a symbol of love, it's also a legally binding agreement to be financially and legally responsible for that child just as if they were born to you. Once final, the non-custodial parent is released of all parental obligations, including child support.
Visit Child Welfare's Information Gateway website for stepfather adoption laws specific to your state. Laws will vary by state, and familiarizing yourself with them as a stepfather prior to contacting an attorney can make the initial meeting run more smoothly by knowing the laws. Follow up by finding an attorney experienced in adoption to represent you.
Ensure your marriage to the parent of your stepchild meets the minimum requirements of the state. Some states require the marriage to be at least 1 year prior to beginning the adoption process of the child by the stepfather.
Get consent from the non-custodial parent. In most cases this parent must be notified and consent to the adoption before any hearing can take place. In the event that the non-custodial parent either cannot be located or has a history of non-involvement in the child's life, petitions can be made to the court for exceptions to this rule. Again, these exceptions will vary by state for stepfathers.
Go through the standard legal process for adoption after your lawyer has advised that your family is eligible. This involves submitting the required legal paperwork, waiting for a court hearing date and appearing at that hearing. If the adoption is granted, apply for amended birth certificates so the child or children can change their names to the stepfather's last name.