Adoption can help build strong family relationships so that children feel loved, safe, and protected. In particular, stepparent adoption can cement relationships into a more permanent structure. When searching for a family lawyer in Greensboro, NC to handle your stepparent adoption, choose Morgenstern & Associates.
A Family Lawyer Can Handle More Than Just Divorce
Often, many people think a family lawyer handles only divorce. For some attorneys, this may be true. Yet, a family law attorney can assist clients in many family-type matters:
Sometimes, people think they can navigate these legal issues on their own. After all, you can find many legal documents online. A few websites describe the simplicity of downloading a few forms and filling out the paperwork.
Yet, unless you know the law, you could make long-lasting mistakes. Often, consumers think lawyers are too expensive. However, the legal nuances of the law are sometimes hard to recognize to the nonprofessional. Moreover, the law is dynamic, changing with new court decisions.
Even something appearing as simple as a stepparent adoption can become quite complicated. Hiring a qualified family law attorney can help you navigate complicated laws to a favorable outcome.
Stepparents Don’t Automatically Have Parental Rights
In today’s world of blended households, it’s not uncommon for families to include a stepparent. Usually, when you marry someone with children, you accept the responsibility of caring for them. However, without a formal adoption process, you have no legal parental rights.
Having parental authority over your minor children gives you the right to make decisions affecting much of their lives:
- Where they’ll live
- Health choices
- Religious Beliefs
- Physical and psychological protection
Often, stepparents will adopt their spouses’ children giving them legal rights. Adoption makes many routine family tasks easier. For example, picking your stepchild up from school or accessing medical records are much simpler.
Plus, the law treats adopted children like natural children under the laws of inheritance. Finally, adoption gives both you and your stepchildren a sense of permanence and belonging.
Legal Requirements Of A Stepparent Adoption
In North Carolina, district court handles adoption proceedings. Typically, stepparent adoptions are slightly different and easier than other forms of adoptions.
Generally, the law has specific requirements if you wish to adopt your stepchild. The court will consider the following circumstances in issuing an adoption:
- Marriage to a biological parent
- The biological parent has both legal and physical custody
- A child has lived with the parent and stepparent 6 months in NC immediately preceding the petition
- Consent of the child if the adoptee is 12 years of age or older
Typically, stepparent adoption is a quicker process than other forms of adoption. However, difficulties can arise requiring the services of a lawyer. For example, the non-custodial parent must give consent to the adoption. What do you do if you can’t locate this parent?
Plus, your attorney can explain and guide you through the entire process ensuring you file all the required legal forms. Moreover, only a lawyer can provide legal advice.
FAQs About Stepparent Adoption
Navigating the intricacies of family law can be challenging even in a stepparent adoption. While each situation is unique, we’ve answered a few commonly asked questions. Always consult a lawyer for specific legal advice.
How Long Will The Adoption Process Take?
Like many other areas of family law, the swiftness of your adoption process is dependent upon your unique circumstances. In a case where all parties agree to the adoption, the process will be fairly quick.
However, a contested matter will take longer. A stepparent adoption cannot proceed without the consent of the non-custodial parent. It is important to note, parents cannot legally consent to a termination of parental rights. A court must find grounds to terminate the rights by clear and convincing evidence and also find it is in the children’s best interest to do so. It can be a daunting task if the noncustodial parent puts up a fight.
When you sit down with us to discuss your case, we can give you a timeline based on our experience.
Can I Adopt My Stepchild Without The Other Birth Parent’s Consent?
Generally, courts hesitate to sever parental rights. However, the court will consider a few specific circumstances to proceed with a stepparent adoption:
- Paternity issues
The court may recognize parental abandonment if the noncustodial parent withholds contact and financial support for the legally specified time period. When the court deems a parent as having abandoned the child, consent is no longer necessary for adoption.
Typically, proving your spouse is unfit can be difficult. Generally, courts will only deem a parent unfit under very narrow and specific circumstances. The parent must be negligent, reckless, or abusive showing a risk of harm to the child.
Finally, a paternity issue can arise if the presumed parent isn’t the biological father or if the father is unknown. In all these instances, you need the help of an experienced family law attorney.
How Do I Find A Qualified Family Lawyer In Greensboro, NC?
However, when you need a family lawyer in Greensboro, NC with extensive experience, choose Morgenstern & Associates. We have over 40 years of combined experience and honors and awards from local professional and legal organizations. Plus, Barbara R. Morgenstern and Ashley D. Bennington are both board-certified specialists in family law.
Call us today at 336-203-9110 to discuss the details of your situation.