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Do stepparents need permission to adopt?

When you marry someone who already has children, you automatically become their stepparent. But what if you want more? What if you want to make it official and really become their parent by adopting them?

This is possible, and many stepparents do it. It can help to show the children how much you care about them, which, depending on their age, may help them with the transition.

There is one hurdle you may run into, however. The birth parent may not agree to let you adopt the child. After all, he or should would then be giving up parental rights and giving them to you. It's important to note that, in most cases, you do have to get this permission. Without it, you're not allowed to adopt, as this would essentially take the children away from the parent against his or her wishes.

There are some exceptions. If the birth parent abandoned the child, for example, you may be allowed to adopt regardless. This can be especially helpful if it is difficult or impossible to find that parent.

Another exception is if the birth parent turns out not to be the parent at all. It may have been assumed at birth, but a DNA test could show otherwise.

Finally, that parent could be deemed unfit by the court. This is sometimes done with those with mental disabilities, for instance, or those who are addicted to drugs.

The key is to make sure you know what legal steps have to be taken. Whether you're looking to use one of these exceptions or just to get official permission, things have to be done properly for the adoption to go through.

Source: FIndLaw, "Stepparent Adoption FAQ's," accessed Oct. 28, 2016

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