It is possible under the law to adopt your stepchild in Michigan if certain circumstances exist. But it is not always easy. The most important question in stepparent adoption cases is whether or not the child’s noncustodial biological parent is willing to terminate his or her parental rights. If the answer is yes, the stepparent will not have a difficult time adopting the child. However, if the biological parent does not wish to terminate parental rights, there could be a long, uphill battle ahead as a stepparent trying to adopt. When a biological parent’s rights to the child are terminated, he or she loses the rights to seek child custody, visitation, and child support.
When Does Michigan Allow Stepparent Adoption?
Michigan law allows step-parents to adopt their stepchildren if:
● The child’s parents have never been married or are currently divorced;
● The child’s father has acknowledged paternity or legally establishes paternity or has a custodial relationship with the child regardless of paternity;
● The child’s custodial parent has married for the first time or remarried; and
● The spouse of the custodial parent wishes to adopt the child.
If the Noncustodial Parent Agrees
When the noncustodial parent agrees to voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights over the minor child in question and the judge rules that adoption of the child is not against the child’s interests, then the process is almost automatic. In such cases, the stepparent fills out some forms, there is a short court proceeding, and then a 21-day appeal period. If nobody appeals, the adoption will be granted. Any child in Michigan over the age of 14 has the right to decline being adopted.
What if the Noncustodial Parent Does Not Agree?
A stepparent wanting to adopt a child over the objection of a noncustodial parent who refuses to give up his or her rights must prove that the parental rights of the biological parent should be revoked by the court involuntarily.
If the noncustodial parent refuses to give up his or her parental rights, the stepparent must prove that the noncustodial should have their parental rights revoked involuntarily. That means proving that the biological noncustodial parent has failed or neglected to provide substantial or regular support for the minor child or has failed to substantially comply with a court-imposed support order for a period of at least two years before the petition is filed. The adult wishing to adopt the minor child also has to prove that the biological noncustodial parent has regularly neglected to visit with, contact, or otherwise communicate with the child in question for at least two years before the adoption petition was filed.
In contested cases, the court looks for you to establish that even though the noncustodial biological parent will not agree to give up their parental rights, that they have not supported or visited the child substantially within the prior two years. If you succeed in proving this, the court will terminate parental rights. If there is no appeal during the 21-day appeal period or if the court denies the appeal, the process moves forward and adoption can also be finalized.
Learn More from a Michigan Family Attorney
Divorce can be hard for children, especially when one biological parent stops taking an interest and being involved in their lives. If you would like to discuss the possibility of adopting your stepchild, the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins, an experienced Michigan family law attorney, can help. We will plow right through the tough issues that you are sure to encounter as you go through this process and aggressively seek to close the adoption. Please contact us online today for help or call us at 248-646-7980.