The Stepparent Adoption Process in Oklahoma

The Stepparent Adoption Process in Oklahoma

Stepparents are often emotionally close with their stepchildren and build strong bonds with them. However, they do not have the same legal rights as a biological parent when it comes to custody matters and decision-making. It’s not uncommon for a stepparent to wish to formalize the relationship with their stepchildren through adoption. If you are a stepparent, adoption can give you the critical legal protections you need when it comes to caring for your stepchild— it can also come with crucial benefits for the child.

What is Stepparent Adoption?

Getting married to a child’s biological parent does not automatically give you any parental rights in Oklahoma — you would have to adopt your stepchild. Stepparent adoption is the legal process of formalizing the relationship between a stepparent and a stepchild. It allows a stepparent to adopt their spouse’s child from a previous relationship, and grants all the rights and responsibilities that come with being a parent.

What are the Legal Requirements for Stepparent Adoption in Oklahoma?

The first step in the stepparent adoption process in Oklahoma is determining whether you meet the requirements to adopt your stepchild. Critically, there are certain criteria that must be met, including the following:

  • The child’s biological parent must have had their parental rights terminated or they must consent to the adoption.
  • You must be legally married to the child’s biological parent.
  • You must have resided in Oklahoma for at least six months before filing for adoption.
  • You must be at least ten years older than your stepchild.
  • If the child is 14 or older, they must consent to the adoption. However, even if the child does not agree, a judge may still allow the adoption to go through if it is in the best interests of the child.

Although the process is usually straightforward, several challenges can arise in a stepparent adoption case. For instance, a biological parent’s rights may not have been terminated — and they might not consent to the adoption. In such cases, a court might still grant the adoption if it is in the best interests of the child. Legal exceptions to the consent requirement can include a biological parent’s abandonment, incarceration, mental incapacity, and lack of an established relationship with their child.

What is the Process for Stepparent Adoption in Oklahoma?

While stepparent adoptions are much less complex and more streamlined than other types of adoptions, there is still a legal process to be followed. After determining that you are eligible to adopt your stepchild, a petition for adoption must be filed with the court. The petition will outline the details of the adoption and the relationship between the stepparent and stepchild. This document commences the formal adoption proceedings — if the child’s biological parent consents to the adoption, the rest of the process will typically run smoothly.

Once the petition has been filed, a home study may be conducted if you have not been married to the child’s biological parent for at least one year. This involves a background check and a home safety check. After this step, a court hearing will be scheduled where the judge will review the case and ensure that all legal requirements have been satisfied. If the court approves the adoption, the judge will issue a final adoption decree that legally establishes you as the child’s adoptive parent.

There is typically a six-month waiting period before an adoption can be finalized, although some adoptions may take longer. However, the waiting period can be waived in a stepparent adoption.

What are the Benefits of Stepparent Adoption?

There are many benefits to stepparent adoption for both the parent and the child — both legal and emotional. Importantly, it can ensure you have legal custody rights and can make decisions on behalf of your stepchild. You can sign consent forms, appear at parent-teacher meetings, travel with the child, and pick the child up from school without any difficulty. Stepparent adoption can also safeguard your custody rights in the event of divorce or your spouse’s incapacity or death.

Stepparent adoption can provide the child with stability and a sense of family unity. It lets the child know that they have a permanent family structure. In addition, it can ensure they have access to certain benefits, including healthcare, social security, and VA benefits. When a stepparent adopts a stepchild, the child also gains the same inheritance rights as a biological child.

Contact an Experienced Oklahoma Adoption Attorney

The stepparent adoption process can be complex. It’s essential to have a knowledgeable adoption attorney who can provide the representation you need and guide you every step of the way. With offices in Tulsa and Claremore, Titus Hillis Reynolds Love offers trusted advocacy and compassionate counsel to clients throughout Oklahoma for a wide variety of adoption matters. Contact us online or call (918) 216-0892 to schedule a consultation to learn how we can help.

Categories: Family Law