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The role of consent in the stepparent adoption process

Until a child reaches adulthood or gains independence through emancipation, their parents are responsible for ensuring that their needs are met and their care is adequately provided. These requirements survive divorce, separation, and other life events that may force parents to live separately and terminate their relationships as couples. After parents split up they may form new relationships, enter into new marriages, and set new plans for their futures that include fostering the growth of their children.

When a parent remarries, their new partner becomes their child's stepparent. A stepparent has no legal responsibilities regarding their stepchild as they do not have a legal or biological connection to them. However, some stepparents wish to make their stepchildren their own and therefore seek to adopt them through the courts.

In order for a stepparent to adopt their stepchild they must have the consent of their stepchild's other parent. Consent is necessary to complete a stepparent adoption as children can only have two legal parents. Some biological parents will willingly relinquish their parental rights so that stepparent adoptions may go through, while others may fight the loss of their rights as parents.

When a biological parent challenges a stepparent adoption, it may be possible to have their parental rights terminated in lieu of getting their consent. Oftentimes this is accomplished by showing that they have abandoned their child or have been deemed unfit to care for their child. Dealing with complex issues like this related to stepparent adoptions can be legally confusing and emotionally frustrating. Parents and stepparents can seek the counsel of attorneys who can provide support for these important and life-changing legal situations.

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