How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Arkansas: 3 Things You Must Know

Arkansas 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 Arkansas?

To adopt a stepchild in Arkansas, 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.

adopting a stepchild in Arkansas

A stepparent in Arkansas might choose to adopt their stepchild for a variety of reasons.

Establishing a legal affiliation with the child can give the stepparent more rights and obligations, including the authority to make decisions regarding the child’s well-being, being involved in their schooling, and allowing the child to inherit from the stepparent.

Adoption can strengthen the bond between the child and the stepparent and provide them with a sense of security and comfort. It also fosters a lifelong parent-child relationship.

Furthermore, it can offer helpful advantages such as access to health insurance and social security benefits.

How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Arkansas

To adopt your stepchild in Arkansas, 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 Arkansas, it is not necessary to hire a lawyer for a stepchild adoption; however, it is beneficial to consult with an experienced adoption lawyer.

This is because the adoption process can be complicated, and there are various legal procedures that must be strictly followed in order to complete the adoption successfully.

An attorney can help ensure that you comply with all of these requirements and have a smooth, successful adoption process.

An adoption lawyer can safeguard the legal rights of the biological parents, stepparent, and child throughout the process, as well as provide counsel for any legal issues that may appear throughout the adoption, such as disputes over parental rights or challenges to the adoption.

Adoption lawyers can offer invaluable guidance regarding the best methods for achieving a successful adoption, such as if a private or stepparent adoption is best suited for your particular circumstances.

They can also help draft necessary paperwork, ensure that all parties understand their legal rights and obligations, and provide legal representation in court.

Though not mandatory, hiring an adoption attorney in Arkansas for stepchild adoption is advisable to guarantee a smooth and favorable outcome for all people involved.

Click here for a board-certified adoption lawyer in Arkansas.

Visit Your Local Courthouse

In Arkansas, when a stepparent desires to adopt their stepchild, the first stop may be the local courthouse. This is because it’s often where you can obtain the relevant forms and packets necessary for initiating the adoption process.

These forms provide the court with information pertinent to making an adoption decision.

The court form packets typically include the Petition for Adoption, Consent to Adoption, and Order of Adoption forms, which will need to be filled out and submitted along with any other necessary documentation.

Additionally, the court might also require a home study to be conducted as part of the process.

When considering adoption, it’s vital to be aware that the rules and paperwork needed can change depending on your location.

It is essential to contact your local court to find out what forms are necessary and what procedures need to be followed in your particular area.

It is also beneficial to remember that many courthouses have self-help centers or family law facilitators.

They can assist individuals representing themselves in the court process by completing forms and offering general guidance throughout the process.

In Arkansas, if a stepparent wishes to adopt their stepchild, they must acquire the appropriate court forms from the local courthouse.

This is an essential part of the adoption process and it is strongly recommended to reach out to the local court to understand what documents are needed and what sub-processes need to be followed in your region.

For more information, visit the Arkansas Court System.

Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service

Apart from acquiring the necessary court forms for a stepparent adoption at the courthouse, you can also purchase them from the service.

There are certain businesses that supply stepchild adoption court forms that can be acquired online or over the phone.

These documents are usually pre-filled with state-required information pertaining to the adoption process and can be tailored to your circumstance.

A major benefit of using a service to purchase court forms is that many times, they come with thorough instructions on how to correctly fill out the documents and submit them to the court.

This can be incredibly beneficial for those not knowledgeable about the law or having difficulty interpreting the forms.

In addition to court forms, many services offer document preparation and filing assistance, which can make the adoption process shorter and less tedious for stepparents.

When buying court forms through a service, it’s essential to verify that the service is legitimate and that the papers provided are up-to-date and correct.

Visit here for more information on the requirements to adopt in Arkansas.

Curious about how much it would cost to adopt your stepchild? We put together an article just for you.

Adoption Process

In Arkansas, becoming a stepparent can be done in a matter of months if the necessary paperwork is completed. This includes filing a Petition for Adoption with the court.

Filing of the Petition for Adoption

Filing a Petition for Adoption is an essential part of the adoption process in Arkansas. This initiates the court’s review of the adoption and starts the legal proceedings. The petition must be filed at the local court of either where the child or stepparent lives.

The Petition for Adoption requires signatures from both the stepparent and the spouse of the biological parent.

In addition, both parties must fulfill an Affidavit of Residency and Assumption of Parental Duties, which is a sworn statement that confirms the stepparent has lived with the child for a minimum of six months and is willing to take on parenting responsibilities.

The petition must contain the following details:

  • Names, residences, and dates of birth of the kid and the stepparent
  • The biological parent’s name, address, and those of their spouse
  • The duration of the child’s residence with the stepparent
  • A declaration that the stepparent is ready to take on the obligations of parenthood
  • A declaration that the adoption is in the child’s best interests
  • Birth certificates for all parties involved

Making sure all the information in the petition is accurate and complete is crucial, as failure to do so may result in the court not accepting the petition.

Once the adoption petition is submitted to the court, a summons must be served on the biological parent. This will notify them of the proceedings and give them a chance to respond.

The filing of a Petition for Adoption is a fundamental step in the adoption process within Arkansas since it instigates the court’s examination of the adoption.

The request has to be submitted to the court in the county where the stepparent or the minor lives, and must encompass data regarding the stepparent and the kid, the biological parent, and their partner.

The adoption laws vary by state, so it’s important to become familiar with what may be required.

Home Study and Background Check

The Arkansas court requires a home examination and background check as part of the adoption process to evaluate the stepparent’s home environment and capacity to care for the child.

Home Study

A home study is usually done by a social worker or an adoption agency that is sanctioned by the state. The home study will assess the stepparent’s living environment, incorporating the accommodation, safety, and overall appropriateness of the residence for the child.

The social worker or organization representative will also engage in discussions with the stepparent, the other children in the home, as well as any other family members living in the home.

The home study will also consist of collecting information about the stepparent’s finances, job status, and any other aspects that can affect the child’s wellness.

Background Check

When considering a stepparent adoption, it is important to conduct thorough criminal background checks to ensure the child’s well-being.

This should include verifying criminal records, looking into any past cases of abuse or neglect, and checking the stepparent’s current employment and financial status.

Any additional relevant information that is collected during this process should also be taken into account.

In the state of Arkansas, it is essential to remember that a home study and background check are necessities for the adoption process.

The adoption will not be approved until both have been completed and accepted by the court.

Consent of the Biological Parent

In Arkansas, biological parent consent must be obtained in order to legally complete the adoption process, indicating that the biological parent is voluntarily relinquishing their parental rights and privileges for their child.

In Arkansas, parental permission is an integral element of the adoption process, showing that the birth parent has decided to surrender their parental rights and obligations with regard to the child.

Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights

In Arkansas, ending the parental rights of the biological parent is a crucial part of the adoption process as it legally dissolves their relationship with the child and creates a new legal bond between the stepparent and the child.

At a hearing in court, the biological parent will be notified and may contest the termination of their rights.

The court will consider several factors when deciding whether to terminate the biological parent’s rights, including what best serves the child, the stepparent’s ability to provide for them, and their willingness to take on parental responsibilities.

If the absent parent has shown no interest in supporting the child or being a part of the child’s life, or if the absent parent is proven to be unstable, the courts may decide to grant the stepparent legal custody even without the birth parent’s permission.

Once the natural parent’s rights have been terminated, they will no longer possess any legal standing in regard to the child.

This effectively cuts off their right to make decisions on the child’s behalf, be involved in the child’s education, or inherit from them.

This action is irreversible and should only take place in a manner that benefits the child.

Finalization of the Adoption

In Arkansas, the finalization of the adoption is the last step and affirms the stepparent’s parental status legally.

Once all the requisite forms and papers are submitted to the court, a hearing is set. At the hearing, the court will examine the adoption request, the home study findings, and the character reference inquiry.

If it is determined that the adoption is in the best interest of the child, permission will be granted.

Subsequently, the magistrate will provide their signature to the Order of Adoption which establishes lawfully that the stepparent is a legal parent of the child.

The adoption process can take some time to be completed as it is dependent on the court’s schedule and any potential extra requirements for the particular case.

Once finalized, the stepparent will be granted an adoption certificate, which serves as proof of their relationship with the child.

This will be the time to request a new birth certificate for the child showing the stepparent as a legal parent to the child. The child’s social security cards and other legal and official documents will also need to be updated.

Should I Adopt My Stepchild?

A part of life is that many parents find themselves remarried with stepchildren. You may be asking yourself, 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.

If you are considering adopting your stepchild or stepchildren, there are some things you will want to think about before taking the plunge. It is safe to assume that you love your stepchild, so let’s go over some things to make sure you have covered all your bases.

It is important to remember that adopting your stepchild is a lifelong commitment. You may have a very good marriage now, but even good marriages can turn rocky.

At the beginning of a new marriage, you are in love and over the moon with happiness. Having romantic ideas of how the family dynamics will be is normal and sets a positive path forward. Just know that you cannot simply change your mind about the adoption down the road if your marriage does not work out.

If you are unwilling to continue the parent/child relationship if your marriage goes south, then you should not adopt your stepchild. Should the marriage end in divorce, you will still need to have cordial communications with the child’s other parent to co-parent your child.

Other things to consider would be if your marriage ended in divorce, you would be financially responsible for half of the expense of raising the child.

After a divorce, you would still be tied to your spouse for life, as you would both have a child together. Until the child turns 18 years of age, there will still be periods when the child resides with you.

No one wants to think about the possibility of divorce when things feel so right. Statistically, however, about half of all marriages end in divorce. If you are not willing to make a lifelong commitment to a child, then you should not adopt the child.

Providing you do decide to proceed with the adoption of your stepchild, keep in mind that there are things you will want and need to do afterward to tie up any loose ends.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Adopt My Stepchild?

It’s a common question, do you need a lawyer to adopt your stepchild?

You do not need a lawyer to adopt your stepchild. Visit your local courthouse to acquire the required court forms and a list of requirements. Although you are not required to have an attorney to adopt your stepchild, hiring an attorney for any life-changing event is highly recommended.

You most certainly do not need an attorney to adopt your stepchild, as the process is a bit less complicated than other types of adoption.

Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption in Arkansas

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 Arkansas 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.

The below link has the Arkansas adoption court forms you will need to file your adoption request.

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!

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 Arkansas?

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.

The court may waive the requirement for a home study when a stepparent is the petitioner or the petitioner and the minor are related to each other in the second degree.

Does the Stepchild Have to Consent to an Adoption in Arkansas?

A child who is ten (10) years and older must provide signed consent to their own adoption in Arkansas. 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 Arkansas?

Under citation code Ann. Code § 9-9-206, a father must consent to an adoption in Arkansas if he:

  • Was married to the mother at the time the minor was conceived or at any time thereafter
  • The minor is his child by adoption
  • He has custody of the minor at the time the petition is filed
  • He has a written order granting him legal custody of the minor at the time the petition for adoption is filed, or
  • He proves that a significant custodial, personal, or financial relationship existed with the minor before the petition for adoption is filed

Consent to adoption is not required of:

  • A parent who has deserted a child without affording means of identification or who has abandoned a child
  • A parent of a child in the custody of another, if the parent has failed significantly without justifiable cause to communicate with the child or to provide for the care and support of the child for at least 1 year
  • The father of a minor if the father’s consent is not required by § 9‑9‑206(a)(2)
  • A parent who has relinquished the right to consent or whose rights have been terminated
  • A parent is judicially declared incompetent or mentally defective if the court dispenses with the parent’s consent
  • Any parent of the adoptee if the adoptee is an adult

Trina Greenfield, Author
SmackDown Media LLC

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.