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Long Island Family Law Attorney Explains Step-Parent Adoption in Nassau County, Suffolk County

by | Dec 8, 2015 | Adoption, NY, Stepparents, NY

As a Family Law attorney whose practice mainly serves residents of Nassau County and Suffolk County on Long Island, we see many second marriages where the couple has a desire to adopt their spouses children.

In some circumstances, when a natural parent is remarried, a child can be adopted by a stepparent. Because the relationship between a child and stepparent plays an important part in a child’s development, stepparent adoption is a choice that in many cases supports the best interest of the child and the family as a whole. Adoption laws in New York are geared toward serving the best interests of the child while protecting the birth parents. Because of New York’s strong public policy in favor of providing children with their parents’ emotional and financial support, stepparent adoption is often supported by the law when the noncustodial parent is not involved in the child’s life or does not provide support for the child.

Stepparent Adoptions are Simpler on Long Island

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The stepparent adoption is often a simpler process than adoption outside of the family. Because the stepparent is married to a biological parent or already lives with the child, certain parts of the adoption process are not necessary. For example, in stepparent adoptions, a home study or waiting period is not required. Nevertheless, the stepparent’s fitness as well as willingness to provide legal and financial support to the child will be considered. It is also important to note that, if the child is 13 years of age or older, the court will consider the child’s consent as well prior to issuing an Order of Adoption.

There are several ways in which stepparent adoption becomes possible.

First, it becomes an option in cases where the noncustodial biological parent is willing to consent to the stepparent adoption. If the natural parent is not involved in the child’s life, then stepparent adoption may make the most sense for the family.

Second, if the biological parent is unwilling to consent to the stepparent adoption, the natural custodial parent may be able to prove that the nonconsenting parent has abandoned the child or failed to support the child so as to warrant a termination of his or her parental rights. Proving abandonment may require a showing that the parent has not provided financial support to the child, has not had contact with the child for a long period of time, and has not exercised any parental rights over the child. Furthermore, a parent’s inability to care for the child will also be considered in order to waive the parent’s consent to stepparent adoption.

Finally, if the birth parent is not the legally presumed father by virtue of being married to the birth mother at the time of birth, or by signing the birth certificate and acknowledgement of paternity, consent may not be required when it comes time for stepparent adoption. In these circumstances, a legal father does not exist, and therefore the consent of a legal father or a termination of his rights is not required in order for a stepparent adoption to take place.

Stepparent Adoption Works for Same Sex Couples Too

As the State of New York allows for same-sex couple adoption, same-sex couples are entitled to the same legal rights as other parents in Nassau County and Suffolk County on Long Island. For same-sex couples in which one partner wishes to adopt the natural child of the other, New York’s stepparent adoption procedure can fully apply.

Stepparent Adoption Confers All Legal Rights and Responsibilities From Biological Parent to Stepparent

Once a stepparent adoption is finalized, the former parent will no longer have legal rights or responsibilities toward the child, and will not be required to pay child support. He or she will, however, still be responsible for any arrears in child support. When the adoption is finalized, the rights and responsibilities of the former parent essentially transfer to the adoptive parent. The child’s birth certificate may be amended to reflect the stepparent’s name in lieu of the biological parent’s name. A stepparent adoption gives the stepparent the ability to make certain medical and education related decisions for the child, and inherits the same rights and responsibilities that usually belong to the natural parent. This includes the responsibility of providing child support and the rights to custody and visitation in the event of divorce.

Consult an Experienced Family Law Attorney on Long Island Before Seeking a Stepparent Adoption in Nassau County or Suffolk County

The adoption of a stepchild can be an exciting and meaningful event for the whole family, and can provide a much needed sense of security and belonging for the child. It can also be a complicated process. The Family Law Office of Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C., can provide the legal expertise needed to navigate the process and provide the best representation and outcome for your family. Contact our office at 631-923-1910 to obtain a free consultation for your Nassau County and Suffolk County, Long Island family law matters.

For more information on Adoption, see our Long Island Adoption Handbook.

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