The legal adoption of a stepchild confers the rights and responsibilities of a biological parent on to the stepparent. When a family in Arizona chooses to adopt a stepchild, a desire to create equality among siblings often motivates the choice. A stepparent might also need the legal right to provide medical consent because of the custodial nature of the relationship. Legal experts recommend that a person consider the pros and cons of stepchild adoption carefully before moving forward.
Positive aspects of adopting a stepchild include giving the child a sense of permanency about a relationship. Adoption could help a child feel secure with a stepparent. Because the noncustodial parent would lose parental rights after an adoption, this approach could achieve a cessation of legal ties to an abusive parent. An adoptive stepparent would also maintain legal parental rights if the spouse who is the biological parent dies. Without formal adoption, a court might assign a different guardian than the stepparent.
The chance that a biological parent could protest the adoption presents a possible negative outcome. A nasty legal battle might batter the family emotionally and make the stepchild feel torn between a biological parent and a custodial stepparent. Another harmful result could emerge if the existing relationship between a stepparent and the biological parent ends. The adoptive stepparent could still be a legal parent and potentially obligated to pay child support.
A person trying to make a decision about adopting a stepchild could seek the opinion of an attorney who is knowledgeable about child custody An attorney could inform the person about the legal obligations that come with adoption. Alternatives, such as legal guardianship, might be explored with an attorney. Should a stepparent decide to go forward with an adoption, the attorney could prepare paperwork and represent the person in court.