Whose Consent is Needed for a Stepparent Adoption?

Legally adopting a stepchild is an incredible way to make someone’s parental role official and permanent. Stepparent adoptions have significant emotional value for everyone involved, as well as legal benefits. But, if you’re considering a stepparent adoption, you may have some questions about moving forward.

Issuing consent to an adoption and understanding when it is (or isn’t) required can be tricky. You might be wondering, “Is stepparent adoption without consent a legal option?” Or, “How do I give my consent to allow my child’s stepparent to legally adopt him or her?”

Here, we’ll answer some of the questions you might have about consent to stepparent adoptions:

FAQ About Stepparent Adoption Consent

Many of the questions that clients have about stepparent adoptions have to do with case-by-case consent questions. Below, we’ll try to answer some of the most commonly asked questions:

“Whose consent is required for stepparent adoptions in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C.?”

In Maryland, the consent of both biological parents (even if the adoptee is an adult) is required for a stepparent adoption. If the child is 10 or older they’ll also need to consent to the adoption and if they’re under 18 they’ll need separate, independent legal counsel to take their consent.

In Virginia and Washington, D.C., any person over the age of 14 must give their consent to the stepparent adoption. Separate counsel is not required in these states. Both of the adoptee's biological parents must consent if the adoptee is younger than 18 years old. If they're 18 or older, their parents' consent is not required.

“What if I don’t know where my child’s other biological parent is?”

Even if you parted ways with your child’s other biological parent and haven’t kept in contact — and even if they’ve never been involved in the child’s life, you’ll still need to make good faith efforts to notify them of the pending stepparent adoption.

If the parents are unknown or unable to be located, the court will require good faith efforts to locate them. If they’re still unable to find them, published notices in newspapers where the parent was last known to reside or work are required.

 

“Is a stepparent adoption without bio-father consent a legal option?”

Sometimes. But typically — no. The biological father must be served notice of the pending stepparent adoption.

If you’re unable to reach him (after completing the good faith efforts to find and contact him), or if he doesn’t offer his consent, the adoption will proceed in court. The court will still need to address the biological father’s parental rights, and they’ll determine if involuntarily terminating his rights is in the best interest of the child. Otherwise, the birth father will need to give his consent and voluntarily terminate those parental rights.

"When is stepparent adoption consent not required?”

If every attempt has been made to find and notify the other biological parent of the stepparent adoption petition and they were still unable to find the parent, then the case will move forward in court and they’ll address parental rights. Or, the other biological parent does not offer consent to the adoption, in which case the court will need to determine if there are grounds to involuntarily terminate the parental rights.

However, most of the time, the consent of both biological parents is required for a stepparent to adopt a minor.

“Can a stepparent adopt a child without father’s consent?”

Again, in most situations, the biological father will need to be notified of your petition to adopt your stepchild.

“Can a stepdad adopt my daughter without my permission?”

Not unless the court decides it’s within the best interests of your child. In almost all cases, you’ll need to consent to the adoption.

“Can a stepfather adopt a child without mother’s consent?”

In most situations, both biological parents must give their consent to an adoption and have their parental rights terminated in court.

“Can I adopt my stepdaughter without her father?” “Can I adopt my stepdaughter without her mother?”

Again, in most stepparent adoptions, both biological parents must consent to the adoption unless the court rules otherwise.

“Is consent needed for stepchild adoption if the child is under a certain age?”

If the child is over a certain age, he or she may need to consent to the adoption, as well. In Maryland, the child will need to consent if they are 10 or older. If they’re under 18 they’ll need a separate, independent legal counsel to take their consent.

In Virginia and Washington, D.C., any child aged 14 or older must give their consent to the stepparent adoption. Separate counsel is not required in these states. Both the adoptee's biological parents must consent if the adoptee is younger than 18 years old. If they're 18 or older, parental consent is not required.

“Is there a stepparent adoption consent form I can send to my child’s other biological parent?”

Many non-custodial biological parents are willing to consent to a stepparent adoption and allow their child's stepparent to become the legal parent. In these situations, you may wonder if it's as simple as printing out a form to give to your child's other biological parent. It’s usually more involved than that.

Some states do require the consenting biological parent to consent to the termination of their parental rights in court under oath. You’ll need to consult with Jennifer and Catelyn to learn what’s required in your situation.

“I’m giving my consent to stepparent adoption, and allowing my child’s stepparent to legally adopt them. Where can I see an example of how to consent in writing to stepparent adoption requests?”

Consult with an adoption attorney, like Catelyn. We’ll be able to walk you through the consent process, as it can vary by state and situation. We’ll make the experience as easy and positive as possible for everyone involved.

 

Ready to move forward with the stepparent adoption process? Have some more questions? Reach out to schedule a consultation now.

“I believe in working with each of my clients—in support of their family dynamic—to make the dreams of parenthood a reality. Whether you are single or married; or gay; a step-parent, a surrogate or intended parent or a child of adoption, it is my mission to serve as your advocate. With a dedication to the ethical and sensitive nature of each situation, I will help you understand the laws within Maryland or Washington, DC for adoption or surrogacy, and pledge to be your partner throughout the journey.” - Jennifer Fairfax