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

Kentucky 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 Kentucky?

To adopt a stepchild in Kentucky, 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 Kentucky

For a number of reasons, a stepparent may choose to adopt their stepchild in Kentucky, including:

  • When a child is adopted, a legal parent-child relationship is established, giving the adoptive parent all of the rights and obligations of a biological parent.
  • A stepparent may wish to adopt their stepchild to make sure they are taken care of in the event of their death. Adopted children have the same inheritance rights as biological children.
  • Family ties can be strengthened via adoption, which also gives the adopted child a sense of permanency and security.
  • Adopting a stepchild helps settle any custody or support disagreements that might develop if the biological parent is unable or unwilling to provide for the child.
  • In the case that the relationship or living arrangements of the biological parents change, adoption gives a stepchild stability.

How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Kentucky

To adopt your stepchild in Kentucky 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

Although hiring an adoption lawyer is not required to adopt a stepchild, it’s worth giving some thought to. Although the adoption procedure can be completed without legal counsel, doing so has a number of advantages for both the adoptive parents and the adopted child.

  • Legal expertise: State-by-state variations result in adoption legislation that might be complicated. The adopting parent will be able to be guided through the procedure and ensure that all legal criteria are satisfied with the help of an attorney who specializes in adoption law.
  • Help with paperwork: A lawyer can provide assistance with the creation of legal paperwork, such as petitions, motions, and agreements, as well as with filing it with the appropriate court.
  • Legal representation: An attorney can defend the adoptive stepparent in court and fight for both their rights and the child’s best interests.
  • Support during the adoption process: Because the adoption process can be emotionally taxing for all parties, the adopting parent may find it helpful to have a lawyer on their side to offer moral support and advice.
  • Protection of rights: An attorney can make sure that the child’s and adoptive parent’s rights are upheld during the adoption process.

Overall, while it may not be legally necessary to hire a lawyer to adopt a stepchild in Kentucky, doing so can benefit both the adoptive parent and the child by offering support, protection, and counsel.

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

Visit Your Local Courthouse

Kentucky stepparents who want to adopt their stepchild should check with their local courthouse for information and resources relating to the adoption process. There are likely court forms and packets they can acquire from the courthouse.

These adoption form packets often contain documents like petitions, motions, and agreements that are required to complete the process.

Instructions are generally included on how to properly fill in the forms and where to send them.

Stepparents should pay close attention to the instructions included in court form packets, and if they feel uncertain at any stage of the process, it is advisable to speak with an attorney.

It is important to do your research before initiating the adoption process, as different courthouses may have different procedures, forms, and requirements.

Additionally, timelines for completing the adoption process can vary between locations, so it is imperative to be aware of local rules and regulations prior to starting the process.

Find a local Kentucky courthouse near you.

Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service

In Kentucky, stepchild adoptions may be facilitated with court forms from a specialized service. These services generally offer pre-printed court forms that correspond to the state and local area of the adoption.

Online services are available that provide the legal forms needed for adoption, including petitions, agreements, and motions. Many of these services also offer instructions on how to correctly fill out and file the forms.

It’s important to keep in mind that buying forms from a service isn’t the same as receiving legal advice, and stepparents should take the time to review and understand the forms carefully.

In fact, these services do not and will not provide legal advice. Stepparents should ask for help or further guidance from a lawyer or adoption agency if they need clarification.

Furthermore, it is essential to verify that the documents supplied by the agency are current and meet the standards of the state and county in which the adoption is occurring.

Stepparents should be aware that these services require a fee for the forms, and that they may not be accepted by the court. Therefore, it’s essential to check the service’s credibility before purchasing the forms.

Do a Google keyword search for “stepparent adoption court forms”, and a service like this should come up at the top of the result.

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

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

Adoption Process

In Kentucky, stepparent adoption involves legally terminating the biological parent’s rights and creating a legal parent-child relationship between the stepparent and stepchild. This process usually starts with filing an adoption petition in court, and typically takes several months to finish.

Filing of the Petition for Adoption

The first step in the stepparent adoption process in Kentucky is filing a Petition for Adoption in the applicable court, usually either a circuit court or family court within the county where the stepchild lives.

In order to complete an adoption petition, it is necessary to have certain details such as names, addresses, and ages for both the stepparent and stepchild.

In addition, the stepparent must submit a statement regarding their reasons for the adoption along with signed consent from the other biological parent if applicable.

A stepparent needs to present documentation like a marriage certificate, birth certificate, and proof of address to prove they are capable of looking after the child both emotionally and financially.

The court will select a date for a trial, frequently within several weeks or months.

At the hearing, the stepparent must demonstrate evidence that they are qualified to be a parent and that the adoption is beneficial for the child.

The judge will also review the appeal and the evidence given. If it is found that the adoption would be profitable for the child, he will allow the adoption and release an order of acceptance.

Stepparents should be aware that filing a petition for adoption is the initial step in a lengthy legal process.

To effectively navigate this procedure and guarantee their rights are protected, they may wish to consult with a lawyer.

Home Study and Background Check

In Kentucky, the home study and background checks are essential steps in the stepparent adoption process. This allows the court to determine if the stepparent is suitable to be a parent and if the adoption is best for the child.

Home Study

A home study is usually conducted by a social worker who visits the stepparent’s home to evaluate living standards and interview the stepparent to determine if they are suitable as a parent.

The social worker will interview other household members and monitor firsthand interactions between the stepparent and stepchild.

Additionally, they will go through financial and medical records, as well as run background checks on all members of the family.

The home study will offer the court a thorough and impartial evaluation of the stepparent’s domestic environment and ability to take care of the child.

The social worker will provide guidance to the court about the appropriateness of the home and the capability of the stepparent as a parent.

Background Check

To ensure the safety and welfare of the child, a background check is carried out to verify that the stepparent does not have a criminal record or history of abuse. This usually consists of checking state and federal criminal records and child abuse registries.

It is essential to understand that the course of study and background check will fluctuate depending on the agency, country, and state running it.

The stepparents need to be geared up to give out any data requested by the social worker or firm running the study and be sincere and open throughout the duration of the process.

In addition, stepparents should understand that the home study and background investigation are critical for the successful completion of the adoption.

A favorable result is required for the process to move forward.

Consent of the Biological Parent

In Kentucky, stepparent adoption is only legal with the biological parent’s permission. No adoption can be finalized without this permission since it will revoke the biological parent’s legal rights and establish a legally binding relationship between the stepparent and stepchild.

The biological parent’s written consent must include their full name, address, and date of birth, be signed and notarized and reflect an understanding of the legal implications of giving consent. Furthermore, it must be done voluntarily.

If the biological parent is unable or unwilling to grant consent, a termination of parental rights hearing may be held in court.

In making its decision regarding the best interests of the child, the court may terminate the rights of a biological parent if that is deemed to be in the best interests of the child.

It is vital that stepparents recognize that biological parents have the right to provide or withhold consent for adoption.

Without their agreement, it can be challenging to finish the process and the potential adoptive parent should consider seeking legal assistance if that’s the case.

The legal rights of the biological parent remain intact until the adoption process is completed.

Consequently, stepparents must understand that the consent of the biological parent may be revoked at any time before finalization. Should this occur, the adoption will be halted.

Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights

In Kentucky, termination of the biological parent’s rights is the legal process that ends the biological parent’s legal rights to their child in order to establish a legal parent-child relationship between the stepparent and stepchild.

In the case of stepparent adoption, the biological parent typically voluntarily terminates their rights by providing written or court-approved consent to the adoption.

Parental rights can also be involuntarily terminated by a court order.

If the biological parent is not willing or able to provide consent, the court may terminate their rights through a proceeding, like termination of parental rights hearing.

The court will take into account what is best for the child and may decide to end the biological parent’s rights if it is deemed to be in the child’s best interests.

The judge may take into account things like:

  • The history of maltreatment, abandonment, or neglect by the biological parent
  • Ability or inclination of the child’s biological parent to support the child
  • Relationship between the stepparent and the child
  • If the child is of age, their preference.

It’s important that stepparents grasp the gravity of terminating the biological parent’s rights, as it can be an emotionally taxing experience for all.

They must be aware that in order to complete the adoption process, this step must be taken.

Finalization of the Adoption

The final step in stepparent adoption is finalization. This process legally creates a parent-child connection between the stepparent and the stepchild, with a court hearing necessary to review the evidence and make a legal ruling on the adoption.

Subsequent to the house examination, background evaluation, and revocation of the natural parent’s privileges, the court will schedule a hearing to complete the adoption.

At the hearing, the step-parent must demonstrate that they are qualified to be a parent and that the adoption is advantageous for the child.

If the judge decides that the adoption is good for the child, he or she will confirm it and pass a decree of adoption.

Upon the grant of adoption, the child’s legal relationship with the biological parent is severed and the stepparent has taken on all rights and obligations as a parent.

Additionally, a new birth certificate with the stepparent’s name will be issued to the child.

Stepparents need to keep in mind that the adoption process is a long-term undertaking and the finalization is the last step.

It is necessary for them to be prepared with any details required by the court and to be present at the final hearing.

It’s essential for any stepparents considering adoption to understand the gravity of this decision, as it is legally binding and cannot be reversed once finalized.

That’s why it’s so important to take the time to thoroughly assess the adoption and ensure that everyone involved believes it’s the best possible outcome.

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 Kentucky

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 Kentucky 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 home? 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 Kentucky?

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.

If you have been married and living with your stepchild for quite some time, you may request to have the home study waived.

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

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

Under citation code Rev. Stat. § 199.500, a father’s consent to an adoption in the state of Kentucky involves the following.

Adoption shall not be granted without the voluntary and informed consent of:

  • The living parent or parents of a child born in lawful wedlock
  • The father of the child born out of wedlock, if paternity is established in a legal action or in an affidavit acknowledging paternity of the child

The consent of a parent shall not be required if the parent:

  • Has been adjudged mentally disabled
  • Has had his or her parental rights terminated
  • Is divorced from the other parent, his or her rights have been terminated, and consent has been given by the parent having custody and control of the child
  • Is a birth parent who has not established parental rights
  • Has abandoned the child for a period of not less than 90 days
  • Has inflicted or allowed to be inflicted upon the child, by other than accidental means, serious physical injury
  • Has continuously or repeatedly inflicted or allowed to be inflicted upon the child, by other than accidental means, physical injury, or emotional harm
  • Has been convicted of a felony that involved the infliction of serious physical injury to the child
  • For a period of not less than 6 months has continuously or repeatedly failed, refused to provide, or been substantially incapable of providing essential parental care and protection for the child, and there is no reasonable expectation of improvement in parental care and protection
  • Has caused or allowed the child to be sexually abused or exploited
  • For reasons other than poverty alone, has continuously or repeatedly failed to provide or is incapable of providing essential food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or education reasonably necessary and available for the child’s well‑being, and there is no reasonable expectation of significant improvement in the parent’s conduct in the immediately foreseeable future
  • Has had his or her rights to another child involuntarily terminated and the condition or factor that was the basis for the previous termination finding has not been corrected
  • Has been convicted of having caused or contributed to the death of another child as a result of physical or sexual abuse or neglect

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.