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

Delaware 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 Delaware?

To adopt a stepchild in Delaware, 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 Delaware

In Delaware, a stepparent may choose to adopt their stepchild for a variety of reasons that might include:

  • A legal parent-child relationship is established by adoption, which grants the stepparent the same rights and obligations as a biological parent.
  • Securing inheritance rights: The stepparent’s estate may be inherited by the stepchild through adoption, and vice versa.
  • Stability: For the stepchild and the stepparent’s family, adoption can give a sense of permanence and stability.
  • Medical decisions: In the event of an emergency, adoption grants the stepparent the right to make decisions regarding the stepchild’s medical care.
  • Adoption entitles the stepchild to a legal name change that changes their last name to that of the stepparents.
  • Ensuring that the family is legally safeguarded in the event of a divorce or a biological parent’s death.
  • Demonstrating emotional dedication to the child and strengthening family relationships.

How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Delaware

To adopt your stepchild in Delaware 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 Delaware and other states, you don’t need a lawyer to complete a stepparent adoption. Nevertheless, there are plenty of benefits to having one on your side.

  • Navigating the process of adoption requires an understanding of its legal complexities; an attorney can be a valuable resource to clearly understand the requirements and paperwork.
  • Hiring a lawyer can guarantee the legal rights of all parties involved in the adoption process are respected.
  • It’s essential to consult with an attorney in order to prevent any errors during the adoption process, as mistakes can lead to delays or even denied adoptions.
  • A lawyer can help you with the adoption process by representing you in court, where they can explain your case to the judge if necessary.
  • A lawyer can aid you in the completion of the adoption process, guaranteeing all necessary legal paperwork has been addressed, and that it is binding.
  • Lawyers can offer advice and support to both the adoptive parent and the child during their journey.

Although it’s not mandatory to hire a lawyer if you want to adopt a stepchild in Delaware, it’s worth thinking about getting legal help since it provides a smoother adoption process and safeguards the rights of all parties.

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

Visit Your Local Courthouse

Delaware stepparents looking to adopt their stepchildren should contact their local courthouse for information on the process.

Those considering stepparent adoption in their jurisdiction can find the necessary information at their local courthouse, including adoption court forms to complete, and timelines for filing and finalizing the adoption process.

Court form packets for stepparent adoption may be available from courthouses or on their websites.

These documents typically contain all of the necessary forms and instructions that are needed to finalize the adoption process.

Acquiring and completing these forms properly can expedite the procedure and guarantee a hassle-free experience.

Even if court form packets are available, it is still recommended to hire an attorney to guarantee the process goes smoothly and that everyone’s rights are upheld.

For stepparents in Delaware who wish to adopt their stepchild, it is recommended that they obtain court form packets, if available.

These may be helpful in guiding them through the process, but to fully ensure that all parties involved are properly protected and the adoption is successfully completed, it is best to consult with a lawyer.

For more information, visit the Delaware Court System.

Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service

Delaware stepparents who want to adopt their stepchild can purchase relevant court forms through a service like that specializes in providing documents specific to the jurisdiction where the adoption will be taking place.

You can purchase the required documents for stepparent adoption online or by mail. Certain services offer additional help with completing and filing these forms in court.

They can also provide instructions and guidance on the correct way to go about it.

Despite the availability of adoption forms for purchase, court form providers do not and will not provide legal advice.

A lawyer can provide the guidance and representation needed to ensure a successful adoption process.

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

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

Adoption Process

In Delaware, stepparent adoption involves filing a petition for adoption, completing a home study and background check, obtaining consent from the biological parent, terminating the biological parent’s rights, and finalizing the adoption.

The specific requirements of each case may differ, but these steps typically constitute the stepparent adoption process.

Filing of the Petition for Adoption

The initial action required to begin the stepparent adoption process is the filing of a Petition for Adoption, also known as a Complaint for Adoption. This legal document must be submitted to the county where both the child and potential adopting stepparent resides.

The petition should include the relevant details of the child and stepparent such as names, addresses, and dates of birth, as well as their current legal relationship.

Furthermore, reasons for why adoption is beneficial to the child must be provided.

The petition should include the following documents:

  • Birth certificate of the child
  • Marriage certificate of the stepparent and the child’s biological parent
  • A report from a pre-adoption home study
  • Background check report on the stepparent
  • Written consent from the child’s biological parent

It is crucial to understand that the adoption petition must be filed in the relevant court with all the necessary papers and evidence.

If either of these steps goes wrong, it could lead to postponements or even a declined adoption.

A lawyer can assist with making sure the adoption petition is correctly filed and all appropriate forms are supplied.

Additionally, they can guide you through the legal requirements and offer support throughout the process.

In short, the initial action in the stepparent adoption process is filing a Petition for Adoption.

Home Study and Background Check

The home study and background check are two important steps in the stepparent adoption process.

Home Study

The Home Study entails an assessment of the stepparent’s home environment and parenting skills by a licensed social worker, while the background check verifies that the potential new parent has no criminal record or signs of abuse.

During a home study, the social worker will evaluate the stepparent-child relationship, living conditions, and parenting skills of the stepparent.

They will also interview family members and friends who are knowledgeable about the stepparent’s character. Lastly, they will visit the home in order to observe the family dynamics.

When completing the home study, the social worker will assess the child’s needs and decide if the stepparent’s home is equipped to provide a secure and consistent environment for the child.

They will also examine any pertinent documents, like medical and educational records, to make sure that these needs can be fulfilled.

Background Check

A background check will be performed to make sure the stepparent does not have any convictions, prior cases of mistreatment, or previous foster or adoption placements.

This typically involves a criminal record check, an examination of prior child protective services reports, and an investigation of past adoption or foster care arrangements.

It is essential to be aware that both the home study and background check are key steps in the adoption process as they verify that the adopted child will have a safe and secure home.

Additionally, the court will review their results to ensure that the adoption is in their best interest.

Consent of the Biological Parent

The biological parent’s consent is a crucial phase in the stepparent adoption procedure. The non-custodial parent’s approval is typically required. The consent must be expressed in writing and signed in the presence of a notary public.

The following details are normally on the consent form:

  • The child’s name, residence, and date of birth
  • The stepparent’s name and address
  • Details about the biological parent’s name and address
  • A declaration indicating the biological parent approves of the stepparent adopting the child
  • A declaration indicating the biological parent is aware that their relationship with the child is legally terminated by the adoption

It is essential to remember that the biological parent’s consent is voluntary and not given through forceful or manipulative means.

If they are unable or unwilling to provide it, the court can terminate their parental rights should they deem it necessary.

At times when the biological parent is too young, is uninvolved in the child’s life, has a mental or physical disability, or is no longer alive, the court may waive the need for consent.

When considering adoption, it is critical to ensure that it is in the best interest of the child by obtaining consent from their biological parent. Only when this consent has been given can a court approve the adoption.

Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights

The legal termination of parental rights will end the legal bond between a parent and their child. This is essential for stepparent adoptions when biological parents are unable or unwilling to provide consent, or if the court finds it best for the child’s well-being.

If a parent is found to have abandoned, neglected, or abused the child, or if the parent is incapable of providing proper care for the child, the court may decide to terminate their parental rights.

The termination of a parent’s rights often includes a court hearing in which both the parent and stepparent must appear.

At this hearing, lawyers will present evidence and testimonies in order to prove their case, while the judge takes into consideration the best interests of the child when making their ruling.

In certain instances, a natural parent may challenge the termination of their parental rights.

If the termination is upheld in court, the legal guardian will no longer be allowed any parenting privileges or responsibilities to the child, like visitations or making decisions on their behalf.

It is essential to consider that terminating parental rights is a consequential matter and shouldn’t be done carelessly. And again, the court will only terminate these rights when it serves the child’s best interests.

An attorney can help guarantee that the process is handled properly and that all involved parties’ rights are safeguarded.

Finalization of the Adoption

The last stage of stepparent adoption is finalization, which makes the adoption legally binding and grants the stepparent legal status as the child’s parent.

At the hearing, the court will evaluate the adoption case and may ask questions to ensure that it is in the best interest of the child. The stepparent, child, and biological parent must attend.

Additionally, the court will validate that all necessary legal components have been satisfied for a valid adoption process.

If the court is satisfied, an order of adoption will be issued. This order will grant legal parent status to the stepparent, terminating the legal relationship between the child and the biological parent.

If requested, this same order can change the child’s name and update their birth certificate to show their new parent-child relationship.

It’s important to keep in mind that the adoption order is permanent and irreversible.

The stepparent will assume the legal status of a parent, while the child will gain all the rights and privileges accorded to them as a legal minor.

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 Delaware

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 Delaware 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 links will help assist you in adopting your stepchild:

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 Delaware?

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.

Home study and post-placement supervision will not be required in the event of stepparent or relative adoptions.

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

A child who is fourteen (14) years and older must provide signed consent to their own adoption in Delaware. 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 Delaware?

Under citation code Tit. 13 §§ 908 and Ann. Code Tit. 13 § 1103(a), a father’s consent to an adoption in Delaware involves the following.

The parent’s consent is not required when his or her parental rights have been involuntarily terminated, it appears to be in the child’s best interests, and one or more of the following grounds exist:

  • The parent has abandoned the child
  • The parent is unable to discharge parental duties due to mental incompetence
  • The parent has been convicted of a felony in which a child has been harmed or endangered
  • The parent is unable or has failed to plan adequately for the child’s needs
  • Parental rights over a sibling of the child have been involuntarily terminated
  • The parent has subjected a child to torture, chronic abuse, sexual abuse, and/or life-threatening abuse
  • A child has suffered unexplained serious physical injury, near death, or death that resulted from the intentional or reckless conduct or willful neglect of the parent

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.