Is it time to formally adopt your stepchildren?

Falling in love with someone who already has children is something a lot of people try to avoid. Many dating sites allow people to screen potential matches based on whether they have or even want children.

Many times, those who fall in love with the parent of minor children also eventually fall in love with the kids. After all, they are part of and raised by the person you care about more than anyone else. It's natural to have loving and protective feelings toward stepchildren.

Eventually, especially if the biological parent doesn't play a significant role in the life of the children, you may start to wonder if it's time to adopt your stepchildren. There are some important considerations that you need to be aware of before you attempt to discuss this topic with the children in your family.

You can't adopt if the biological parent retains their rights

Many people are confused about the rights of biological parents versus the rights of stepparents. If the biological parent is still alive, they retain parental rights over the children unless the state has terminated them.

Unless that person is willing to sign off or revoke their parental rights in a legal and binding manner, the courts will not approve your adoption of the stepchildren. However, if the parent has already lost parental rights, is no longer alive or is willing to execute the necessary documents, you will have the option of moving forward with the adoption of your stepchildren.

When you adopt the stepchildren, you assume legal parental responsibilities

Adopting your stepchild is a permanent decision. Even if your relationship with their parent ends, you will still legally have an obligation to those children. That could mean paying child support if you get divorced in the future.

You will have a legal responsibility to provide the necessities of life to your stepchildren once you formally adopt them. However, with that obligation comes the joy and familial love that can only come from the kids in your life.

Make sure everyone is comfortable with the adoption

Before you move forward with adoption, you want to make sure that everyone involved, including the children, is comfortable with the change of legal status in your family. Even in the event that the child has a deceased parent, they may feel that their ongoing legal tie to that parent is important to their identity or sense of family.

Your spouse may also have mixed feelings about the adoption, especially if it will impact benefits or support that the children currently receive. Respect the wishes of both your spouse and your stepchildren as you move forward with the potential process of legally adopting your stepchildren.

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