Adopting a child normally terminates the rights of both biological parents, ending their legally recognized relationship to the child. This is not always the case, as Indiana allows for step-parent adoption which only terminates the rights of one biological parent. In a step-parent adoption, the spouse of one of the biological parents adopts the child without interfering with the parental rights of their spouse. As more and more families include step-parents, step-parent adoptions allow for the creation of a legal family unit that represents the actual family setup, and provides the child with rights and protections in the event of their biological parent’s death. Without an adoption, a step-parent who has otherwise raised a child as their own has no legally recognized rights to that child in the event of the biological parent’s death. This could result in an absentee biological parent getting custody of the child instead of the involved step-parent who has raised the child.
Indiana allows for a more streamlined process with a step-parent adoption than a non-stepparent adoption. While any individual adopting a child must undergo a background check, courts may waive the period of supervision and the home study in the case of step-parents adoptions. As with other avenues of adoption, an adopting step-parent must have the consent of the biological parent whose rights will be terminated, or the Court must find that the parent’s consent is not necessary. The adopting parent’s spouse, i.e. the biological parent whose rights will not terminated, must join in the petition for adoption or the biological parent must file a consent to the adoption.
If the step-parent adoption is granted by the Court, the adoptive parent will have all the same legal rights as the biological parent. This means that the child will be an heir to the adopting parent’s estate, and if the biological parent and adoptive parent were to divorce, the adoptive parent will be entitled to custody, parenting time and child support in the same manner as the biological parent.
While most commonly referred to as a “step-parent adoption,” Indiana actually allows for second parents adoptions as well. This means than the adoptive parent does not need to be legally married to the biological parent if the parties are in an otherwise committed relationship to each other. Indiana also allows for a grandparent to adopt their grandchild in the same streamlined process as a step-parent adoption. Since the governing standard for adopting a child is whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child, the court must decide in each individual case whether the adoption would be in the best interest of the child.
If you are considering a step-parent or second parent adoption, the experienced attorneys at Slotegraaf Niehoff, P.C. can assist you.