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

Iowa 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 Iowa?

To adopt a stepchild in Iowa, 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 Iowa

In Iowa, a stepparent may decide to adopt their stepchild for numerous reasons. One motivation may be to bring into effect a legitimate parent-offspring bond and attain legal entitlements and obligations for the child.

Adopting the stepchild gives the stepparent the ability to participate in choices concerning the child’s education, healthcare, and well-being.

Another purpose could be to give the child a feeling of safety, as well as create a sense of family and security.

Furthermore, adoption can provide the child with inheritance privileges and social security and life insurance.

How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Iowa

To adopt your stepchild in Iowa 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 Iowa, a stepparent may have the ability to adopt a stepchild without enlisting the assistance of an attorney. Still, it is wise to think about obtaining legal counsel for stepparent adoption.

This is because the adoption process can be confusing and involves numerous lawful prerequisites and forms that must be filled out and filed correctly.

A knowledgeable adoption attorney understands the adoption laws and can provide instruction and advice on the legal procedure, and guarantee that all the necessary documents are finished and recorded precisely.

In addition to preparing the necessary paperwork, such as adoption petitions and written consents, a lawyer can ensure that all legal protocols are followed, including obtaining the other birth parent’s consent or terminating their parental rights.

Adoption lawyers can provide courtroom representation for stepparents and help make sure that the adoption is finalized efficiently and as quickly as possible.

Having a knowledgeable attorney can be beneficial in case the non-custodial parent challenges the adoption since they can guide you through the legal process and advocate for your role as a stepparent.

A family law attorney is worth the expense, as it provides peace of mind knowing that you have an advocate during the entire adoption process.

Visit here for a board-certified adoption lawyer in Iowa.

Visit Your Local Courthouse

Stepparents wanting to legally adopt their stepchild in Iowa should visit their local courthouse to obtain further information, including any court form packets that may be available.

In Iowa, many courthouses offer court form packets designed to facilitate stepparent adoptions.

These court form packets generally include the petition for adoption, consent to adoption, and other necessary paperwork.

These are very useful tools in helping the stepparent through the process and ensuring that all forms are filled out correctly and filed on time.

Before petitioning the local court for adoption, it’s essential to check and make sure you have the correct paperwork, as each court may vary in the forms needed to file.

It’s also advisable to ask for more information about the steps required for adoption proceedings.

Find a local Iowa courthouse near you.

Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service

In Iowa, a stepparent who desires to adopt their stepchild can acquire adoption court forms from a service such as

It is essential to be aware that these services are not associated with the court, and a fee will be charged for any forms and instructions provided.

To ensure the reliability and accuracy of these forms according to the jurisdiction, it is important to investigate the reputation of the service.

Important to point out is that these services do not and will not provide legal advice. Their service is only meant to provide the stepparent adoption court forms needed for your state.

It’s important to consult the local court where you plan to file your adoption paperwork to make sure the forms from this service are current and meet all the local court’s standards.

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

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

Adoption Process

In Iowa, becoming a stepparent to one’s stepchild usually involves filing an adoption petition, conducting a home study and background check, getting the biological parent’s agreement, and ending the biological parent’s rights.

Filing of the Petition for Adoption

Filing a petition for adoption is the initial step in the stepparent adoption process in Iowa. This is a legal document that formally requests permission to adopt the stepchild, and must be filed with the court of the county where both the stepparent and stepchild live.

The stepparent must provide detailed information about themselves, the stepchild, and the reasons for the adoption’s benefit to the child.

The petition should also include information about the biological parent, such as name, address, and relationship to the minor.

Additionally, it must be signed by the stepparent as well as info like their name, address, occupation, and other personal details.

It’s essential to understand that the court forms necessary for adoption can be different depending on the county, with the possibility of additional documents or information as required by the court.

Therefore, it’s advisable to check with the local court where the adoption will take place to make sure all forms are up-to-date and meet local court needs.

When the application is submitted, a court will assign it a case number and arrange a hearing date.

Additionally, the stepparent must pay the appropriate filing fee; this fee can differ depending on the region.

It is essential that the petition be both accurate and complete, and submitted in a timely manner.

If this is not the case, the court may dismiss the petition and the stepparent will have to start from scratch.

Additionally, if the information provided in the petition is found to be false, not only will it be dismissed but also legal repercussions may ensue for the stepparent.

Home Study and Background Check

In order to become a stepparent in Iowa, it is necessary to complete a home study and background check examination during the adoption process.

An adoption home study is a comprehensive analysis of the stepparent’s house and family life, and it is conducted by a social worker or another expert.

The intention of the home study is to gauge the living conditions and the potential of the stepparent to supply a safe and stable environment for the child.

The social worker will visit the stepparent’s residence and speak with the stepparent, the stepchild, and any other persons residing in the home.

They will also observe the interactions between the stepparent and the stepchild.

The social worker will furthermore assess the step-parent’s financial position, criminal background, and any other applicable material.

A background check of a stepparent typically involves verifying their criminal history by a law enforcement agency.

This process may include checks of local, state, and national criminal databases.

The goal is to make sure the stepparent does not have any history of criminal behavior that would be incompatible with being an appropriate parent for the child.

The home study and background check are essential components of the adoption process, as they help the court assess if the stepparent is suitable as a parent for the child.

The court will evaluate these results when making their decision on whether or not to approve the adoption.

It is important to remember that the home study and background check may take several weeks and the cost of these evaluations may vary, depending on the county and agency conducting them.

Consent of the Biological Parent

In Iowa, when a stepparent is looking to adopt their stepchild, the consent of the biological parent is a necessary part of the adoption process. This typically requires that the biological parent sign a form expressing their consent to the adoption.

A consent form is a legal document that confirms the biological parent’s understanding of the adoption process and their agreement to terminate parental rights.

It typically includes information, such as the name of the biological parent, address, and relationship to the child, along with the name of the stepparent wanting to adopt, allowing them to become responsible for raising and caring for said child.

In certain situations, such as when the biological parent is determined to be unfit, has abandoned the child, or had their parental rights removed, the court can proceed with the adoption without the consent of that parent.

It is essential to note that a biological parent’s permission must be given voluntarily, otherwise, the court ruling may be refused.

Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights

When the biological parent does not give their consent for a stepparent to adopt their stepchild or if the court determines the biological parent is unfit or has abandoned the child, it may be necessary to terminate their rights as part of the adoption process.

The legal process of parental rights termination severs the legal bond between parent and child.

As a result, the parent loses any legal rights or responsibilities involving the child, including visitation and guardianship privileges, rights to make decisions about the child’s welfare, and the right to inherit from them.

In Iowa, a court may end the biological parent’s rights if evidence shows that the parent is unable to provide for the child, has neglected or abused the child, or has a mental or physical impairment that would inhibit them from taking proper care of the child.

Additionally, abandonment can be identified by examining if the parent has failed to support or keep in contact with the child for an extended period.

Termination of parental rights is usually done in a court hearing, where the biological parent can present evidence and make their case to the court.

The court will take into account what is best for the child when making their determination.

It’s important to keep in mind that once the biological parent’s rights have been removed, there is no turning back.

Finalization of the Adoption

The final step of the adoption process in Iowa for a stepparent to legally adopt their stepchild is the finalization hearing. This is where the court reviews all information by the parties and then makes a decision on whether or not to grant the adoption.

The stepparent and stepchild must participate in a closure hearing after the home evaluation, background check, and agreement or discontinuance of the biological parent’s authority are done.

At this time, the judge will consider the circumstance and make a decision.

During this review, the judge may ask questions to both the stepparent and the stepchild to confirm that finalizing the adoption is in the best interest of all parties involved.

If the court approves the adoption, the stepparent will gain legal parentage of the stepchild and receive all the rights and responsibilities associated with the position of a biological parent.

In addition, an adoption order will be issued, and an amendment to change the name on the child’s birth certificate will be granted.

Once an adoption is completed, it is forever binding and may only be reversed in extraordinary circumstances such as fraud or coercion.

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 Iowa

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 Iowa 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 Iowa?

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.

Furthermore, in Iowa, a home study is not necessary to finalize a stepparent adoption, lowering the overall stepparent adoption cost and streamlining the procedure.

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

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

Under citation code Ann. Stat. § 600.7, a father’s consent to an adoption in the state of Iowa involves the following.

Consent may be unnecessary if:

  • Any person required to consent refuses to or cannot be located.
  • A parent has signed a release of custody and the release has not been revoked.
  • A parent has petitioned for the termination of parental rights.
  • The parent has abandoned the child.
  • A parent has been ordered to contribute to the support of the child or financially aid in the child’s birth and has failed to do so without good cause.
  • A parent does not object to the termination, although every reasonable effort has been made to identify, locate, and give notice to that parent.
  • An adoptive parent requests termination of parental rights and the parent-child relationship based upon a showing that the adoption was fraudulently induced.
  • The parent has been determined to be a chronic substance abuser and the parent has committed a second or subsequent domestic abuse assault.
  • The parent has abducted the child, has improperly removed the child from the physical custody of the person entitled to custody without the consent of that person, or has improperly retained the child after a visit or other temporary relinquishment of physical custody.
  • The parent has been imprisoned for a crime against the child, the child’s sibling, or another child in the household, or the parent has been imprisoned and it is unlikely that the parent will be released from prison for a period of 5 or more years.
  • The parent has been convicted of a felony offense that is a criminal offense against a minor, the parent is divorced from or was never married to the minor’s other parent, and the parent is serving a minimum sentence of confinement of at least 5 years for that offense.

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.