Maryland 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 Maryland?
To adopt a stepchild in Maryland, 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.
There are several reasons why a stepparent might want to adopt their stepchild in Maryland. A few possible reasons include:
- The desire to formally establish a parent-child relationship
- Wanting to give the child the same legal rights and obligations as a biological child
- The desire to guarantee the child’s financial and emotional security in the event of the death or incapacitation of the biological parent
- Wishing to give the child a sense of security and stability in their family.
How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Maryland
To adopt your stepchild in Maryland 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
Adopting a stepchild does not require legal representation in Maryland. Adoption rules can be complicated and might differ from state to state, therefore it’s important to consider hiring a lawyer for the adoption process.
A lawyer may assist in making sure that all legal criteria are satisfied and that the adoption is finished quickly and effectively.
A lawyer can also guide you through any potential legal concerns that may come up during the adoption process, like getting the other birth parent’s consent.
A lawyer should always be consulted in any legal case, even though it’s not required by law. Doing so will help guarantee that everything goes according to plan and that everyone’s rights are upheld.
An adoption lawyer may offer advice on the necessary documentation, court processes, and deadlines, as well as on any potential legal roadblocks that might appear.
Visit here for a board-certified adoption lawyer in Maryland.
Visit Your Local Courthouse
To learn more about the adoption procedure and any necessary court documents, stepparents in Maryland who seek to adopt their stepchildren should contact their local courthouse.
Stepparent adoption court form packets are available at many courthouses in Maryland, and they can be used to start the adoption procedure.
Forms like a petition for adoption, a consent document from the other birth parent, and an order of adoption are frequently included in these packets.
As the procedure may differ depending on the court, it’s crucial to confirm the particular requirements of the local court and obtain the appropriate forms.
The court will also have details about the costs involved in the adoption procedure, and the court employees can help with any queries or worries that might come up.
It’s a good idea to check the court’s website or give them a call to be sure they are open and able to deliver the necessary forms before going there.
In order to ensure that the adoption procedure is performed appropriately and to avoid any potential legal complications, it is also advised that stepparents think about contacting a lawyer.
A lawyer can guarantee that the paperwork is completed accurately and that the court is provided with the necessary documentation.
Find a local Maryland courthouse near you.
Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service
In Maryland, a stepparent may also acquire stepchild adoption court forms from a service if they want to adopt their stepchild. These services often offer the paperwork and guidance needed to finish the adoption procedure.
Google “stepparent adoption forms” or “stepchild adoption forms” to find these online services. Many of these services will offer the paperwork particular to the state of Maryland.
While buying the forms from a provider can be convenient, it’s always advised to confirm with the local court that the documents are accurate and current as rules and requirements can change over time.
To make sure the paperwork is completed correctly and all necessary documents are submitted to the court, it is also advised to speak with an attorney.
These providers could also include extra materials like manuals, instructions, and checklists to support the stepparents during the procedure.
To make sure they are reputable and trustworthy, and that they offer the documents required by the particular court, it’s also a good idea to read reviews and compare the services.
Visit here for more information on the requirements to adopt in Maryland.
Curious about how much it would cost to adopt your stepchild? We put together an article just for you.
A petition for adoption must be filed with the court in order for stepparents to adopt their stepchildren in Maryland. The county where the child resides must receive the petition.
Additionally, the petition must have been submitted after the stepparent has shared the child’s residence for at least six months.
Filing of the Petition for Adoption
In Maryland, the stepparent adoption procedure begins with the filing of the petition for adoption. The court in the county where the child resides must receive a petition from the stepparent who wants to adopt the stepchild.
The following details must be included in the petition:
- Addresses, names, and ages of the child and stepparent
- The child’s relationship with the stepparent
- The motivations behind the adoption
- The agreement of the other biological parent or a justification for why it is not necessary for them to obtain consent
- Any pertinent details regarding the child’s past, including the identity of the child’s biological parents, any siblings, and any prior adoptions.
It’s important to remember that before submitting the petition, the stepparent had to have resided with the child for at least six months.
A filing fee and any extra paperwork necessary, including a copy of the child’s birth certificate, must be submitted with the petition.
It’s crucial to make sure the forms are correctly completed and that the court has received the necessary papers.
A lawyer can guarantee that the paperwork is completed accurately and that the court is provided with the necessary documentation.
The lawyer can also offer advice on the paperwork, court procedures, and deadlines, as well as on any potential legal roadblocks that might appear.
Home Study and Background Check
Home studies and background checks are important steps in the stepparent adoption process in Maryland. They are conducted to ensure that the stepparent is suitable to adopt the child and that the child will be safe in their home.
A social worker will visit the home and interview the stepparent and the child as part of a home study to make sure it is secure and appropriate for the child.
In addition, the social worker will watch how the child and stepparent interact and evaluate how well the family as a whole is working.
The stepparent’s past, including any criminal history and any history of substance abuse or domestic violence, will also be examined by the social worker.
To make sure the stepparent has no criminal history that would disqualify them as a parent, a background check is done.
The background investigation will look into the stepparent’s criminal history as well as any prior accusations of child abuse or neglect.
An examination of the stepparent’s financial documents and any prior contact with child protective services are also included in the background investigation.
To make sure that the child’s best interests are being upheld, it is crucial that both the home study and background check be conducted.
The court will decide whether the adoption can go forward based on the outcomes of the home study and background investigation.
The adoption procedure can move on to the following stage if the results are positive.
Keep in mind that the home study and background check may take many weeks or months to complete.
To guarantee a smooth procedure, it is advised to work closely with the social worker or organization conducting them.
Additionally, the price of the background check and home study may differ, therefore it’s advised to inquire with the local court or attorney for specifics.
Consent of the Biological Parent
In Maryland, obtaining the biological parent’s consent is a crucial stage in the stepparent adoption procedure. Unless the court has terminated the parent’s rights, the other biological parent’s approval is often necessary for the adoption to move forward.
There are various ways in which the other biological parent can approve the adoption.
They can provide their consent in writing before a notary public, or in some circumstances, in person while testifying in court.
The court may consider the adoption without the agreement of the other biological parent if they are unable to grant it, as might be the case in situations of abandonment, incompetence, or death.
Remember that the consent of the biological parent must be given voluntarily and cannot be pressured or forced.
Additionally, consent needs to be given knowing exactly how the adoption will affect them, including losing their parental rights.
The court may remove the other biological parent from custody if they oppose the adoption and doing so is in the child’s best interests.
Following a hearing, the court decides on this matter while considering the child’s best interests.
Note that the biological parent’s consent is a necessary step in the adoption procedure and that the court will not approve the adoption without it.
If there are any doubts about getting the biological parent’s approval or if the biological parent’s rights need to be terminated, it is also advisable to speak with an attorney.
Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights
In Maryland, the process of stepparent adoption includes a crucial step called “Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights.” It is the legal procedure through which a child’s biological parent’s parental rights are terminated, enabling the child to be adopted by a new parent.
If the biological parent has abandoned the child, hasn’t supported the child, or is found unfit to be a parent, the court may revoke their rights.
This can be accomplished by demonstrating that the biological parent has neglected to keep in touch with the child, has not supported the child financially, or has a history of drug use, domestic abuse, or other criminal activity that renders them an unfit parent.
The court will hold a hearing to decide if ending the biological parent’s parental rights is in the child’s best interests.
The court will take into account things including the child’s safety, emotional and physical health, and need for a secure and long-term home at this hearing.
The termination of a biological parent’s parental rights is a serious matter that should only be taken into consideration if it is in the child’s best interests.
The evidence given at the hearing forms the basis of the court’s decision to terminate a parent’s rights.
Terminating a biological parent’s parental rights is a legal procedure, so it’s best to speak with a lawyer to make sure that everyone’s rights are safeguarded and that the process proceeds smoothly.
Finalization of the Adoption
The stepparent adoption procedure in Maryland is completed when the adoption is finalized, at which point the stepparent is recognized as the child’s legal parent.
The court will hold a hearing to decide whether the adoption should be approved when the home study, background investigation, and consent of the biological parent have been finished.
The court will weigh the child’s best interests at this hearing before making a determination based on the information presented.
If the court decides that the adoption is in the child’s best interests, it will be approved, making the stepparent the child’s official parent.
The stepparent will then be granted all of the rights and obligations of a legal parent when the court enters a final order of adoption, signifying that the adoption is complete.
A lawyer should be consulted to guarantee that the rights of all parties involved are safeguarded since the adoption finalization process is a legal procedure.
The child will receive a new birth certificate after the adoption is finalized, on which the stepparent will be recorded as the child’s parent.
The child will have the same legal obligations and rights as a biological child, including the ability to inherit property and qualify for government aid.
The adoption procedure can take several months, so it’s advised to adhere to the local court’s specific guidelines and to completely comply with the social worker or organization doing the home study or background check to ensure the process runs smoothly.
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 Maryland
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 Maryland Adoption Requirements: Complete Guide.
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 Maryland?
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 Maryland?
A child who is fourteen (14) years and older must provide signed consent to their own adoption in Maryland. 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 Maryland?
Under citation code Fam. Law § 5-338, a father’s consent to an adoption in the state of Maryland involves the following.
Consent to an adoption is required from the following persons:
- The birth mother and father
A court may allow adoption without parental consent if the court finds clear and convincing evidence that:
- The parent has not had custody of the prospective adoptee for at least 1 year.
- The child to be adopted has significant emotional ties to and feelings for the petitioner.
- The parent has not maintained meaningful contact with the child while the petitioner had custody, notwithstanding an opportunity to do so.
- The parent has failed to contribute to the child’s physical care and support, notwithstanding the ability to do so.
- The parent has subjected the child to chronic abuse, chronic and life‑threatening neglect, sexual abuse, or torture.
- The parent has been convicted of abuse of any offspring.
- The parent has been convicted, in any State or any court of the United States, of:
- A crime of violence against a minor offspring of the parent, the child, or another parent of the child
- Aiding or abetting, conspiring, or soliciting to commit a crime described above
- The parent has, other than by consent, lost parental rights to a sibling of the child.
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.