Indiana 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 Indiana?
To adopt a stepchild in Indiana, 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.
In Indiana, a stepparent may choose to adopt their stepchild for a number of reasons.
- After adoption, the stepparent and stepchild have a legal parent-child relationship that may give the stepchild the same rights and protections as a biological child.
- Adoption can strengthen the emotional connection between the stepparent and stepchild and provide the child with a sense of security and permanence.
- For the sake of estate planning and financial security, adoption can guarantee that the stepchild has the same inheritance rights as a biological child.
- Through the stepparent’s insurance and government programs, the stepchild may be eligible to receive health and social benefits.
- The stepchild may be able to adopt the stepparents’ last name by adopting it themselves.
Adopting a stepchild, in turn, can ensure legal and emotional support, and financial and social stability, thus creating an atmosphere of unity and family for the stepparents.
How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Indiana
To adopt your stepchild in Indiana you can either hire a lawyer, visit your local courthouse and ask if they provide stepchild adoption court form packets, or purchase court forms through a service that specializes in stepchild adoption court forms.
Hire an Adoption Lawyer
In Indiana, while it is not mandatory to hire a lawyer for the stepparent adoption of their stepchild, it is highly recommended to do so in order to ensure the process goes as planned and both parties are legally protected.
A family law and adoption specialist attorney can provide assistance with the legal process for stepparents, such as filing paperwork, meeting legal requirements, and attending court if required.
A lawyer can also review the adoption agreement to make sure the stepparent’s obligations and rights are clearly outlined, and any potential legal issues are solved.
Furthermore, they can provide help in case of any problems or complications that might arise during the adoption procedure.
An attorney can offer assistance and representation if the other biological parent opposes the adoption or if any other legal issues arise.
In Indiana, although you may not officially need to hire a lawyer for a stepparent adoption, it’s important to consider doing so in order to secure a successful process and safeguard the legal rights of both the stepparent and the child.
Visit here for a board-certified adoption lawyer in Indiana.
Visit Your Local Courthouse
If you want to adopt your stepchild in the state of Indiana, the first step is to check with your local courthouse. Some courthouses provide adoption court form packets filled with all the necessary forms and instructions you need to complete and file in court.
To adopt a child, you must typically fill out a petition for adoption, obtain consent from the other birth parent, and submit a home study report.
Additionally, you should be prepared to pay the court fees associated with these forms.
It is essential to be aware that adoption regulations vary from county to county, and the paperwork needed may slightly differ depending on where you are located.
As such, it is important for the person looking to adopt to contact their local court and acquire the right forms that apply specifically within their locality.
Once the necessary paperwork has been filled out and submitted, the court will arrange a hearing to go over the adoption petition.
The stepparent must be present at the hearing and may have to supply supplemental information or documentation as requested by the court.
To ensure a successful stepparent adoption in Indiana, it is essential to obtain the proper court form packets from the local courthouse.
Find a local Indiana courthouse near you.
Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service
In Indiana, a stepparent seeking to adopt their child can purchase court forms for stepchild adoption from online services instead of going directly to the courthouse. An example of such services is Stepparentadoptionforms.com.
These services are usually offered by private companies specializing in legal forms and document processing.
Important to keep in mind is that although they provide stepparent court forms specific to your state, they do not and will not provide legal advice.
These services are meant to focus on providing filled-out court forms and giving you instructions on submitting them.
Utilizing a service can provide extra assistance in filling out forms, yet this service comes with a price.
You should also confirm that the service is authorized by Indiana to supply these forms and adheres to state laws, regulations, and specifications.
Visit here for more information on the requirements to adopt in Indiana.
In Indiana, stepparents who wish to adopt their stepchildren must go through a detailed procedure, which includes drafting a petition for adoption, undertaking a home study and background check, gaining the consent of the biological parent, and ending the rights of the biological parent.
This can be complicated and lengthy, so it is suggested that people looking to adopt a stepchild acquire the assistance of an experienced adoption lawyer to guarantee that all legal obligations are followed.
Filing of the Petition for Adoption
In Indiana, the stepparent must provide specific facts and supporting paperwork to the court when submitting a petition for the adoption of a stepchild.
Typically, this includes:
- The stepparent must disclose their full name, address, and other identifying details, as well as their employment and income data.
- The full name, birth date, and place of the stepchild must be disclosed by the stepparent. They must also provide the child’s present living situation and any other pertinent details regarding the child’s existence.
- The stepparent must give a justification for the adoption, including the child’s relationship with them, their shared desire to adopt the child, and the child’s need for a secure home and family.
- The biological parent must sign a consent form and submit a copy to the court if they are willing to offer their consent. The stepparent must tell the court of the biological parent’s whereabouts and justifications for withholding permission if they are unable or unable to do so.
- The stepparent may be required to submit additional supporting documents, such as proof of address, proof of income, or evidence of the child’s home, depending on the situation.
The accuracy and completeness of the information in the adoption petition are essential, as it will be reviewed by a court to decide upon the adoption.
It is advised that stepparents seeking to adopt a stepchild enlist the help of an experienced adoption attorney to guarantee that all paperwork is filled out properly and legalities are followed precisely.
Home Study and Background Check
Once a petition for adoption is filed, the court requires the stepparent to go through a home study and background check to assess if they are an appropriate fit as a parent for the child and that adopting them will be in the child’s best interests.
A home study is a review of the stepparent’s home and family life which is conducted by a social worker. The social worker will go to the stepparent’s home and will interview the stepparent, their companion, and other household occupants.
They will also investigate the connections between the stepparent and the child.
The social worker will inspect the stepparent’s residence to confirm that it is protected and proper for a child.
The social worker will also analyze the stepparent’s parenting style and shall bring a suggestion to the court regarding whether the stepparent is prepared to accept the child.
Criminal history and child abuse record checks will be included in the background check performed on the stepparent. Fingerprints will be requested from them to confirm their criminal history status.
This review is conducted to guarantee that the stepparent has no prior criminal behavior or a record of harming children.
The court will use the information gathered in the home study and background check process to decide whether an adoption is in the best interest of the child.
Consent of the Biological Parent
To complete an adoption of a stepchild in Indiana, the biological parent must provide written consent in front of a judge or notary public, including filing the appropriate paperwork with the court.
In cases where the biological parent is willing to give their consent, they must sign a consent form that acknowledges their understanding of the legal implications of adoption and confirms that they willingly relinquish their parental rights over the child.
This consent needs to be non-coerced, and the biological parent must have all the pertinent information regarding the adoption process beforehand.
When the biological parent is unable or unwilling to give their consent, the court may still pursue adoption if it is in the best interests of the child.
This can include cases where the parent has passed away, cannot provide legal consent due to mental incapacity, or has simply abandoned their child.
Sometimes, a stepparent may need to demonstrate that the biological parent is unable to care for the child, or that the child would be in danger if not removed from the biological parent, in order to gain parental rights.
To make sure that the adoption is in the best interests of the child, the court will assess the consent given by the biological parent, making sure that it was given freely and voluntarily, and that they fully understand the consequences.
The consent must be obtained to confirm that the legal ties to their biological parent are severed and allow the stepparent to become their legal new parent.
Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights
Once the biological parent has agreed, the court will proceed to terminate their parental rights. This process legally dissolves the relationship between the biological parent and child, thereby making the stepparent the child’s legal parent.
The court may terminate the parental rights of a biological parent after considering the evidence presented at a hearing.
A biological parent may challenge a termination of their parental rights, but the court will only grant it if it is in the child’s best interests.
The court may also take into account past cases of abuse or neglect by the parent or the fact that they have abandoned the child.
The termination of the biological parent’s rights is permanent, resulting in the dissolution of all legal rights and obligations toward their child; including decision-making, visitation, and financial support.
Completion of the termination of parental rights is a pivotal part of the adoption procedure, as it lawfully severs the bond between the biological parent and their child while granting the stepparent lawful parental status.
In doing so, the court must assess that the termination will benefit the child’s welfare, providing them with proper notification and the opportunity to dispute the ruling.
Finalization of the Adoption
Once the legal requirements have been satisfied, a court hearing will be held to finalize the adoption.
Both the stepparent and the stepchild must be present for the hearing and the judge will make their official decision, which is the end of the adoption process and when it officially becomes binding.
At the conclusion of the finalization hearing, the judge will assess the petition for adoption, home study, background check, consent from the biological parent, and termination of the biological parent’s rights.
Additionally, any other pertinent information or documentation provided to the court must be incorporated into the determination by the judge.
Through this process, an order is generated that legally establishes a stepparent as a legal parent to a child.
Once the adoption is complete, the stepparent will have full parental rights, including the right to make decisions that affect the child’s life.
The stepchild, meanwhile, will enjoy all of the same rights as a biological child, including inheritance and receiving government benefits if their stepparent qualifies.
Once the adoption is finalized, it creates an irreversible legal relationship between the stepparent and the child, ending any existing connection with the biological parent and giving the stepparent all rights and responsibilities of a legal parent.
The stepchild will need a revised birth certificate to show that their stepparent is now their legal parent, as well as having the option to take on the stepparent’s surname.
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 Indiana
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 Indiana 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.
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 Indiana?
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.
Before adopting, the state of Indiana requires all prospective adoptive parents to satisfactorily complete an adoption home study. This also applies to kinship and stepparent adoptions.
Does the Stepchild Have to Consent to an Adoption in Indiana?
A child who is fourteen (14) years and older must provide signed consent to their own adoption in Indiana. 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 Indiana?
Under citation code Ann. Code § 31-19-9-1, a father’s consent to an adoption in the state of Indiana involves the following:
- Each living parent of a child born in wedlock
- The mother of a child born out of wedlock and the father of a child who has established paternity
Consent is not required from any of the following:
- A parent who is adjudged to have abandoned the child for at least 6 months immediately prior to the filing of the petition
- A parent of a child in the custody of another person who fails for a period of at least 1 year to communicate significantly or provide for the care and support of the child when able to do so
- A birth father of a child born out of wedlock who has not established paternity
- A birth father of a child born out of wedlock whose child was conceived as a result of rape, child molesting, sexual misconduct with a minor, or incest
- A putative father whose consent to adoption is irrevocably implied, who established paternity after an adoption petition was filed, or who failed to register with the putative father registry
- A parent who has relinquished the right to consent or whose rights have been terminated
- A parent judicially declared incompetent or mentally defective
- A legal guardian who has unreasonably failed to consent to the adoption
- A parent who has been found to be unfit
- A birth father who had denied paternity before or after the birth of the child
Consent to adoption is not required from a parent if the parent is convicted of committing any of the crimes listed below and the victim is the child’s other parent:
- Murder, causing suicide, or voluntary manslaughter
- An attempt to commit a crime described above
- A crime in another state that is substantially similar to a crime described above
Consent to adoption is not required from a parent if the parent is convicted of any of the following and the victim is another child of the parent:
- Murder, causing suicide, or voluntary manslaughter
- Rape, criminal deviate conduct, child molesting, or incest
- Neglect of a dependent or battery
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.