Relative and Stepparent Adoption

The process to adopt a relative or stepchild is slightly different from the foster care or domestic infant adoption process. The following provides more information about stepparent and relative adoption in Arizona and the services MyersStrickland provides to create a seamless process for everyone involved.

What is relative and stepparent adoption?

Relative and stepparent adoptions follow very similar legal processes and are defined as the following:

Relative adoptions – The adoption of a child by his or her grandparent, great grandparent, aunt, uncle, great-aunt, great-uncle, cousin or sibling.

Stepparent adoptions – The adoption of a child by his or her parent’s spouse to create a legal parent-child relationship. This may also include same-sex couples who are now able to legally adopt a spouse’s child in Arizona.

How does relative and stepparent adoption compare to other types of adoption?

Every adoption involves the legal process of transferring parental rights and responsibilities from one parent to another. Whether you are pursuing infant adoption, foster care adoption, international adoption or relative or stepparent adoption, the process will involve termination of parental rights, background checks and legal finalization.

However, stepparent and relative adoptions differ somewhat in legal process and home study requirements. For example, the home study is generally less extensive for stepparents and relatives than it is for other prospective parents pursuing adoption. MyersStrickland will help you understand the legal requirements to complete your stepparent or relative adoption and can refer you to a licensed home study provider to complete any necessary assessments.

What are the benefits of adopting a stepchild?

There are many reasons a stepparent may consider adopting his or her stepchild. Establishing a legal relationship between the child and the stepparent entitles the child to receive inheritance and insurance benefits and simplifies parental tasks, such as picking the child up from school or taking him or her to doctor’s appointments. Stepparent adoption may also provide a sense of belonging and stability for everyone in the family.

How does relative and stepparent adoption work?

Before a grandparent, great grandparent, aunt, uncle, adult sibling or stepparent can adopt a minor relative or stepchild, that child must be “free for adoption,” satisfied through one of the three proceedings:

  • Parent(s) of the child gives written consent to the adoption
  • The child’s parent(s)’ parental rights are terminated for various reasons
  • The adoption proceeds without the father’s consent or termination of parental rights by obtaining a certificate from vital records stating that no father has filed a notice of claim of paternity with the putative father registry. This may occur if the father has not established paternity by the following reasons:
    • he was not married to the mother at any time in the 10 months immediately preceding the birth or the child is born within 10 months after the marriage is terminated
    • he is not on the birth certificate
    • no court order has ever been entered declaring him to be the father of the child

The stepparent is required to provide state and federal criminal records check (fingerprinting) and a central registry check (child abuse clearance) if:

  1. The prospective adoptive parent is the child’s stepparent who has been legally married to the child’s birth or legal parent for at least one year and has resided with the child for at least six months.
  2. The prospective adoptive parent is the child’s adult sibling, by the whole or half blood, or the child’s aunt, uncle, grandparent or great grandparent and the child has resided with the prospective adoptive parent for at least six months.

*Everyone in the home over the age of 18 must have a fingerprints clearance except for a child’s birth or legal parent.

If the mother, or a father, who has established maternity or paternity is unwilling to consent to the adoption, it will be necessary to terminate his or her parental rights before an adoption petition can be filed in a separate termination.

Resources for Stepfamilies

Families built through stepparent and relative adoption enjoy many benefits and face unique challenges. Stepparent adoption is the most common form of adoption today, and there are many resources available to adoptive stepparents. If you are interested in learning more about stepparent or relative adoption, consider the following resources:

Resources for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children

Additional resources are available for families touched by relative adoption. If you are raising your grandchild, great-grandchild, niece, nephew, cousin or sibling, the following resources can provide valuable information and support:

The stepparent and family member adoption process varies based on each family’s unique circumstances and needs. MyersStrickland works with families through each step of the process to ensure the adoption is completed legally, ethically and successfully.

Please contact us for more information about relative and stepparent adoptions to determine the best option for you and your family.