Some Louisiana families are very different than the stereotypical mother, father and children. Divorces, remarriages and other circumstances can place individuals in the same household who have no legal relationship. Stepparents are related to a spouse but have no rights concerning the spouse’s children.
The best remedy for this unequal legal situation may be a stepparent adoption. An adoption by a stepparent establishes legal rights and responsibilities to a spouse’s child. The legal action also severs legal ties between the child and an assumed, alleged or biological father.
With exceptions, the stepparent adoption process is similar to other adoptions. The stepparent and his or her spouse, the child’s parent, are joint petitioners. The petitioner must have at least six months of legal or physical child custody, before a stepparent adoption petition is filed.
The adoption cannot take place, unless the non-custodial parent agrees it should or a court terminates the parent’s rights. A Louisiana court may terminate rights when a non-custodial parent provides no support or makes any contact with a child for at least six months. In this case, the non-custodial parent’s consent for the stepparent adoption is unnecessary.
Many adoption attorneys advise making every effort to get consent from a non-custodial parent. In Louisiana, consent to adopt cannot be revoked once it has been given. However, the non-custodial parent must first attend two counseling sessions and declare that he or she understands what giving up parental rights means.
Meanwhile, the adoption petitioner may undergo a home study and background checks for a history of criminal activity and child abuse or neglect. A court may waive an investigation in an intrafamily adoption. By the way, there is no Louisiana law about child consent, although some states require older children to approve a stepparent adoption.
Attorneys help prepare stepparents meet the state’s adoption requirements and overcome obstacles, like obtaining consent or a needed court order.