Alabama adoptions can be full of long processes and requirements, yet when adopting your stepchild, the process is not always that extensive. Many stepparents fall in love with their stepchildren and wish to adopt them as their own. So how do you adopt your stepchild in Alabama?
To adopt a stepchild in Alabama, the stepparent wishing to adopt must obtain stepchild adoption court forms, often available at the local courthouse, or may be purchased online from a court form service. If the biological parent is contest the adoption, then hiring a lawyer is strongly encouraged.
A stepparent may want to adopt their stepchild for many reasons. Having the legal right to make decisions as a parent is one of the main reasons to adopt a stepchild.
This includes the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, the obligation to provide for their financial needs, and the ability to leave them an inheritance.
Adopting a stepchild can support the development of trust and loyalty in the child since they will formally have two parents who are dedicated to their well-being.
How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Alabama
To adopt your stepchild in Alabama, you can either hire a lawyer, visit your local courthouse and ask if they provide stepchild adoption court form packets, or you can purchase court forms through a service that specializes in stepchild adoption court forms.
Hire an Adoption Lawyer
In Alabama, hiring an adoption lawyer can be beneficial to stepparents who wish to become legal parents of their stepchildren.
A stepchild adoption attorney should thoroughly know the relevant laws and regulations.
They will make sure all documentation is filled out properly and deadlines are met, helping to avoid delays and any potential legal problems that may come up during the process.
After selecting an adoption attorney, you’ll receive help and advice on navigating the process.
An attorney’s expertise can be extremely beneficial for stepparents who may feel uncertain about meeting legal requirements and completing paperwork.
Additionally, an attorney can provide support and assistance with any issues that come up during the adoption process.
Lastly, having an adoption lawyer on your side can be highly advantageous in court. They will become a voice for you, especially if the natural parent isn’t supportive or if difficulties arise during the adoption.
The attorney will fight to protect the child’s well-being and make sure the process is successful.
An adoption lawyer in Alabama can explain the obligations and privileges of an adoptive parent, such as child support laws, rights to inheritance, and legal decisions.
Click here for a board-certified adoption lawyer in Alabama.
Visit Your Local Courthouse
If a stepparent in Alabama is interested in adopting their stepchild, they should start by visiting their local courthouse. Often, the courthouse will have stepparent adoption form packets that include all needed documents and information to complete the adoption process.
Stepparent adoption forms can be obtained and processed without assistance from lawyers, saving time and money.
Although it is not necessary to hire legal help, it is advised as the process may become complex and they can inform the stepparent of relevant laws and regulations in Alabama.
Before visiting the courthouse to obtain the forms for stepparent adoption, the necessary information about all parties involved should be available, along with the payment for forms and court costs.
It is also important to ensure any court-specific instructions have been met.
Once the forms are obtained, stepparents must read, understand and accurately fill out the forms.
All necessary documents such as birth certificates should be gathered, and all relevant contact information of biological parents must be collected.
The convenience of getting the stepparent adoption court forms from a local courthouse is convenient for stepparents aiming to adopt their stepchildren, yet not all states provide this option.
For more information, visit the Alabama Judicial System website.
Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service
Stepparents looking to adopt their stepchildren in Alabama can turn to services similar to Stepparentadoptions.com for court forms and other resources. This website offers stepparent adoption court forms for each state.
HelpingGrowFamilies.com is not an affiliate of Stepparentadoptions.com, nor have we had any firsthand experience with this service to know enough to recommend them or not.
However, we can use Stepparentadoptions.com as an example of services that provide court resources for stepparents wanting to adopt their stepchild.
All of the forms they offer are tailored to the state’s laws and regulations, so users can expect that their submissions will be accepted by the court.
It must be noted that forms from stepparentadoptions.com cannot take the place of legal representation. This website is not a law firm and thus can’t offer legal counsel or assistance.
As such, seeking legal representation during the process is highly encouraged so an attorney can offer guidance and support while helping to understand the necessary laws and regulations.
The laws for each state tend to evolve over time and are different for each state. With that said, below is a list of common adoption requirements in most states that must be met in order to adopt a stepchild.
Filing of the Petition for Adoption
The stepparent filing for adoption must submit a petition to the court with details of themselves, the stepchild, and the biological parents. The petition must also explain the reason for the desired adoption of the child and request that the court approves it.
Home Study and Background Check
The court may mandate a home study and background check for the stepparent. The home study is an assessment of their current living situation as conducted by a social worker, while the background check evaluates if they have any criminal history or other factors making them ineligible to adopt a child.
Consent of the Biological Parent
For a stepparent to adopt a child, either one or both of the biological parents must give their consent. If the other parent is not the biological parent, then they too have to consent to the adoption.
Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights
To proceed with the adoption, the biological parent’s rights must be terminated. This can be done with consent from them or involuntarily if it is believed that they are unable to care for the child properly.
Finalization of the Adoption
Upon completion of all the requirements, a court hearing will be set up to examine the adoption request. If it is deemed beneficial for the child, approval of the adoption will be given and the stepparent will legally become the stepchild’s parent.
The adoption of a stepchild can be complicated; thus, it’s important to get legal help. An attorney can provide advice and assist with making sure all requirements are fulfilled efficiently and the adoption is finalized quickly.
Visit here for more information on the requirements to adopt in Alabama.
Curious about how much it would cost to adopt your stepchild? We put together an article just for you.
Should I Adopt My Stepchild?
Many parents find themselves remarried with stepchildren and may be wondering, should I adopt my stepchild?
You should adopt your stepchild if you are prepared for a lifelong commitment. Adoption is permanent, and you cannot change your mind should you and your spouse later decide to divorce. If you are prepared to love and honor your commitment to your adopted stepchild, you should adopt your stepchild.
Before deciding to adopt your stepchild, there are some things to think about.
Assuming you love your stepchild, let’s review the necessary steps to ensure all their needs are taken care of.
Before deciding to adopt your stepchild, remember that it is a lifelong commitment. Even if you have a strong marriage at the moment, things may change down the line.
When you’re newly married, it’s natural to be filled with love and joy. Having utopian thoughts about family life can lead you to a successful marriage.
You should keep in mind, however, that you cannot reverse the adoption process after making the decision if your marriage does not work out.
Unless you are willing to maintain the parent/child relationship regardless of the outcome of your marriage, it is not recommended that you adopt your stepchild.
Even if your marriage ends in divorce, you and the other parent of your child need to remain amicable with each other to successfully co-parent.
In the event of a divorce, you would both be liable for half of the costs associated with raising your child.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Adopt My Stepchild in Alabama?
Adopting a stepchild in Alabama does not require the services of an attorney, but it is strongly suggested. The adoption procedure can be complicated and demands fulfilling certain eligibility requirements, submission of the necessary paperwork, and negotiating the legal system.
A lawyer can help with:
- Check which conditions must be met in Alabama when adopting a stepchild.
- Ensure accuracy when filing the required documents.
- Offer advice regarding the home study and background check procedures.
- Get parental consent to proceed.
- A lawyer will represent and defend your case in court.
- Give advice and support to ensure post-adoption needs are met, including obtaining a birth certificate for the child.
- Can help you understand your legal obligations and rights as an adoptive parent in Alabama.
Having a lawyer on your side can be beneficial, but it is also expensive. It’s best to research and compare different lawyers to find the one that fits your budget and needs and provides quality services.
Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption in Alabama
Attorneys are nice to have and can do the leg work for you, but you most certainly do not need an attorney to adopt your stepchild.
If you are feeling a bit lost and want more information on starting your adoption journey, you may want to visit Alabama Adoption Requirements: Complete Guide.
Just keep in mind that many of the requirements will not apply to you if you are already residing with your stepchild.
Providing there is no anticipated legal battle from one of the biological parents, then one would be encouraged to obtain the court forms from your local courthouse, usually available to download online.
You may also wish to contact your local Department of Human Resources to speak to someone about how to process your adoption petition or reach out to your local courthouse.
Most courthouses have what is called a facilitator who helps guide you in the steps you need to take to complete legal processes without a lawyer.
- Alabama Department of Human Resources
- Do-It-Yourself Court Forms for Alabama
- Alabama Adoption Petition Forms
To see if you qualify for free legal aid in Alabama and wish to apply online, click here. If you wish to speak with someone to see if you qualify for free legal aid, call 866-456-4995 or to speak with someone in Spanish, call 888-835-3505.
Stepparent Adoption Contested by Biological Parent
Adopting a stepchild involves obtaining the permission of both biological parents. You will need the blessing of your spouse as well as the other parent.
How will the biological parent feel about the idea of a stepparent wanting to adopt their child? This depends on the relationship between the biological parent and the child.
There are times when the other parent will voluntarily terminate their rights to their child. Perhaps there is very little relationship between the parent and child.
If the stepparent has taken on the active parenting role, and if the biological parent recognizes their lack of involvement, they may agree to know the adoption decision is in the best interest of their child.
When the biological parent’s rights are terminated, it also frees them from court-ordered financial obligations.
Sadly, this can be a huge motivating factor for some biological parents to voluntarily terminate their rights to their children.
What do you do, though, if the biological parent refuses to give permission and contests the adoption?
States will almost always only allow two parents to have parental rights to a child. However, there have been a few cases where the courts have allowed three parents.
States are required to take the parental rights of the biological parent very seriously and will only terminate their parental rights if the parent is proven to be unfit, is not the true biological parent, or has in essence abandoned the child.
A parent can be found to be unfit for several reasons. Examples of an unfit parent can be things like being abusive or neglectful. Are they incarcerated or have they been incarcerated?
Is the biological parent’s home environment safe for this child? What type of people do they hang out with and have visited their homes? Many things can deem a parent unfit.
For a parent to be accused of parental abandonment, the parent must not have spent any time with the child or paid child support in a very long time, usually a year.
If there is a question of paternity and it can be proven through the court system that the “biological” parent is not the parent, after all, that opens the door for adoption possibilities.
However, the rights tend to be placed with the biological parent, so that can be a tricky scenario.
Telling a Child Their Stepparent is Adopting Them
Depending on the age of this child being adopted, you will most certainly be excited to tell them the good news! In some states, a child over a certain age will need to permit to be adopted.
Not telling the child they are being adopted by the stepparent can create mistrust and hurt down the road, so think twice if you were planning on not telling them until later.
I strongly encourage you to not keep the adoption hidden from the child or children. Allow them the opportunity to be excited about being adopted! Involve them in the process and celebrate!
And hats off to you if you are a stepparent considering adopting your stepchild. It takes a huge heart and unconditional love to adopt a child that is not biologically yours.
And when you are helping raise a child, you are already a huge part of their life whether you make it official or not.
What are the Home Study Requirements for Stepparent Adoptions in Alabama?
Prior to permitting an adoption to take place, a home study or home study is a screening of the home and lives of potential adoptive parents.
A home study is needed by legislation in some countries, as well as in all international adoptions. Even though it isn’t legally needed, an adoption agency may insist on it.
Alabama does not typically require a home study in situations where a stepparent petitions the court for adoption.
The court may still demand that a home study be completed, however, if it decides that one is needed. Adopting a child as a stepparent is somewhat less complicated than other types of adoption.
Does the Stepchild Have to Consent to an Adoption in Alabama?
A child who is fourteen (14) years and older must provide signed consent to their own adoption in Alabama. Younger children are not required to give their consent.
You are encouraged to proceed with a stepparent adoption during a time when your stepchild will react favorably to knowing you are adopting them.
Important to remember when planning to adopt your stepchild is that it is likely your stepchild has been through quite a lot.
Absent biological parents not voluntarily involved in their child’s life can be a painful emotion to live with for your stepchild.
Another thing to consider is the timing of the stepparent adoption. Was there a divorce previous to your marriage with your stepchild’s parent that your stepchild is still reeling from?
Children often suffer emotionally from the loss of a biological parent. Even a marriage viewed as a positive step forward takes time for a child to adjust to.
Consider letting the dust settle between major life events.
Can a Child Be Adopted Without the Father’s Consent in Alabama?
Under citation code Ala. Code §§ 26-10A-7; 26-10A-8, a father must consent to an adoption in Alabama if the presumed father, regardless of paternity, if:
- He and the child’s mother are or have been married to each other and the child was born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage was terminated
- Before the child’s birth, he and the child’s mother attempted to marry each other
- After the child’s birth, he and the child’s mother married or attempted to marry each other, and with his knowledge or consent, he was named as the child’s father on the child’s birth certificate, and he is obligated to support the child, or he received the child into his home and openly held out the child as his own child.
The consent or relinquishment of the following persons shall not be required for adoption:
- A parent whose rights with reference to the child have been terminated
- A parent who has been adjudged incompetent or mentally incapable of consenting or relinquishing and whose mental disability is likely to continue for so long a period that it would be detrimental to the child to delay adoption until the restoration of the parent’s competency or capacity
- A parent who has relinquished his or her minor child to the Department of Human Resources or a licensed child-placing agency for an adoption
- A deceased parent or one who is presumed to be deceased
- An alleged father who has signed a written statement denying paternity
- The natural father when the natural mother indicates the natural father is unknown unless the natural father is otherwise made known to the court
About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina is a seasoned writer, content creator, and website owner with a passion for unbiased research, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.