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Blended families are practically the norm these days. When two families come together, there may be a desire on behalf of the stepparent to adopt their stepchild. This can sometimes occur for legal reasons, but it can also have a profound effect on the child, especially if their non-custodial parent plays a limited role in their lives. 

The process for adopting a stepchild is not without its challenges, however. This guide explains what you need to know before initiating the process, which helps you achieve the best possible outcome for your case. 

Criteria for petitioning to adopt a stepchild in North Carolina

According to the North Carolina General Assembly, certain criteria must be met for a stepparent to successfully petition to adopt their stepchild. The spouse of the stepparent must have physical and legal custody of the child. Additionally, the child must have lived with the stepparent and spouse for at least six months prior to the petition being filed. 

These factors also apply if the spouse who is the biological parent of the child is deceased or determined to be unfit for parenting (meaning the person is judged as incompetent by the court). In this case, the spouse must have also provided express consent before dying or before being determined unfit. Stepparents are also permitted to file a petition without the above criteria being met if there is just cause, which could stem from an allegation of abuse or neglect. 

What to expect during the adoption hearing

After filing your petition and additional paperwork, a court date will be scheduled. Your hearing will be presided over by a judge, who will ask questions of you to determine whether you are fit to be the legal guardian of your stepchild. If it is determined that you are, a second hearing date will be set so the adoption can be finalized. Once finalized, you will receive a certificate stating that you are your stepchild’s legal guardian.