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How Do I Adopt My Stepchild in Missouri?

happychild.jpgA stepparent adoption can be one of the most rewarding events in the life of both the child and the adoptive parents. A stepparent adoption is a permanent relationship in which a minor child becomes the child of the spouse of the natural mother or natural father for all legal intents and purposes.

The process begins with the filing of a Petition For Adoption. The Petition is typically filed in the county where the parents reside, but may be filed in the county where the child was born, either birth parent resides or where the child is located at the time of the filing of the Petition.

The adoption is typically filed on behalf of the minor child by both the natural parent and the spouse of the natural parent seeking the adoption. The written consent to the adoption is required by any child who is fourteen years of age or older. The written consent for any child under the age of fourteen is not required in Missouri. Likewise the written consent of both the natural parent seeking the adoption with their current spouse and the natural parent giving the child up for adoption is required.

Acquiring the consent of the biological parent who is surrendering the child for adoption in a stepparent adoption may be the most significant hurdle in finalizing the adoption process. As part of the adoption process, the natural parent who is giving the child up for adoption will have his or her parental rights permanently terminated. Therefore, the adopting parents must be able to demonstrate that the natural parent whose rights are to be terminated both has notice of the adoption and consents to it. If this natural parent does not consent to the adoption the adoption may not be able to proceed.

However, there are circumstances where the consent of the biological parent whose rights are to be terminated is not required. Those circumstances include, but are not limited to, when a parent has been properly served with notice and fails to answer or appear at a hearing to terminate his rights, when the identity of the of the biological father is unknown at the time of the filing of the petition or when a parent for at least six months immediately preceding the filing of he petition has abandoned the minor child or has failed to properly provide the child with proper care and protection during that same time frame. You should discuss your particular circumstances with an experienced Missouri family law attorney to determine if the written consent of the other parent will be required in your situation.

After the initial pleadings are filed, the Court will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent your child in the adoption. The guardian ad litem will serve as your child’s legal representative in the adoption process and, among other duties, will be the legal advocate for your child’s best interests in the adoption. An interview between the guardian ad litem and the parties and the minor child will typically occur as part of this process.

A Judgment and Decree granting the adoption will by signed by the Judge presiding over the adoption after a hearing. When appropriate and requested, the name of the minor child may be changed to conform with the name of adoptive parents in the Decree.

fatherdaughter.jpgA stepparent adoption is a great way to formalize the union of a family for both the adopted child and the adopting stepparent. To determine if a stepparent adoption is right for you or a loved one, you should contact an experienced Missouri family law attorney today.