By Harry J. Lenaburg, Esq.
As with just about everything in life the process for a Step-Parent to adopt a child can follow an easy path or a difficult path. In many cases such an adoption will require a two step process. Step one will be the termination of the parental rights of the biological parent, and step two, of course, is the adoption procedure itself.
Occasionally a biological parent will consent to the adoption of the child by the step-parent, which will expedite the adoption process. If not, then an action must be filed to terminate the parental rights of the biological parent. Actions to terminate parental rights are filed in the Juvenile division of the superior court. It may happen that parental rights are terminated through an action in a Juvenile Dependency matter. Until the parental rights of the biological parent are terminated by court order, or the consent to the adoption is obtained, the adoption may not proceed.
If the parental rights must be terminated then a termination social study must be prepared by an agency approved by the court. Your adoption attorney can assist you with determining the appropriate agency to employ. If the parental rights are already terminated, or the consent to the adoption is obtained, then there must still be a social study conducted. However, if the step-parent has been married for more than a year to the biological parent (who must also consent to the adoption by the way) and has resided with the child for at least six months, then the social study will consist of only a state and federal criminal records check and a check of the central registry.
This is not an exhaustive discussion of the step-parent adoption process, but at least outlines the procedure for you.
The Law Firm of Jessica M. Cotter, P.L.L.C.
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Glendale, Arizona 85308