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Blended families are common throughout North Carolina. Parents marry other individuals who have kids and new step-relationships are created through those unions. A stepparent is a person who has married someone who has their own kids. A stepchild, then, is the legal child of a person who marries someone who is not the child’s legal parent.

The relationship between a stepparent and their stepchild can be positive and fruitful. Though stepparents lack the rights of legal parents to control, direct, or raise their stepchildren, they can be positive role models for them and can support them in their endeavors. From time to time, stepparents may wish to create legal bonds with their stepchildren through the process of stepparent adoption.

A stepparent cannot adopt their stepchild if that child has two legal parents and one of those parents has not given up their parental rights to their child. If a child’s noncustodial parent has died, or if that parent has relinquished their right to their child, then the child may be considered to only have one parent. In such a situation their stepparent may be allowed to complete the legal process of adopting the child and making them a legal part of their family.

A child’s custodial parent must also agree to the process of allowing their spouse to adopt their child, and often courts will inquire of children if they wish to be adopted by their stepparents. Not all families will want to or be able to pursue stepparent adoption, but for some it may be a good way to bring their families together. Adoption attorneys can advise them of how to start the process of legalizing the relationship between a stepparent and their stepchild.