Missouri 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 Missouri?
To adopt a stepchild in Missouri, 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 Missouri, a stepparent may choose to adopt their stepchild for a number of reasons. These include:
- Creating a legal parent-child relationship: Adoption establishes a parent-child relationship that is legally binding, giving the child access to advantages like health insurance, inheritance rights, and other legal protections.
- Adoption can give a stepchild a sense of stability and security by demonstrating to them that their stepparent is devoted to them and their well-being.
- Creating a sense of family: Adoption can help to deepen the link between the stepparent and child as well as provide the stepchild a sense of family and belonging.
- Giving the legal parent the ability to make decisions for the child, including those regarding their education and health.
- Removing biological parent rights: If the biological parent does not have custody or visitation rights, the adoption of the child’s stepparents will assist in removing such rights and obligations.
How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Missouri
To adopt your stepchild in Missouri 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
It is not necessary to retain legal counsel in order to adopt a stepchild in Missouri. However, because the adoption process can be complicated and it is crucial to make sure that all legal criteria are satisfied, you may wish to consider hiring a lawyer.
Throughout the procedure, an attorney can offer direction and support, assist with paperwork, communicate with the court, and, if required, represent you in court.
Additionally, a lawyer can advise on potential legal matters that can come up during the adoption process and work to safeguard the child’s best interests.
Overall, while it is not necessary to hire an attorney for a stepchild adoption in Missouri, doing so can offer all parties involved vital support and protection.
Visit here for a board-certified adoption lawyer in Missouri.
Visit Your Local Courthouse
When a stepparent wants to adopt their stepchild, they should speak with their local courthouse to learn about the particular requirements and steps involved in adoption for that jurisdiction.
Many courthouses provide court form packets that contain the required court forms and filing instructions for the adoption process and are frequently available to stepparents.
Papers including an adoption petition, biological parent consent forms, and any other required legal documents are often included in these packets.
It is necessary for the stepparent to verify with the local courthouse for the precise rules and procedures that apply to their circumstance because the adoption process might differ by state and even by county.
Further, it is strongly advised that the stepparent get legal counsel to make sure the procedure is carried out correctly.
The stepparent adoption process can be started by obtaining court form packets from the neighborhood courthouse, but it is crucial to note that this is not a replacement for legal counsel.
To secure the best interests of the child and the stepparent, it is always advised to seek the counsel of a family law specialist.
Find a local Missouri courthouse near you.
Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service
In Missouri, a stepparent who wants to adopt their stepchild can do so by paying for court documents through a court form service. In order to make the adoption process simpler for stepparents, these services often provide essential forms and instructions.
They also provide direction and assistance throughout the process, and many times will fill the forms out for you.
Doing an internet search for “stepparent adoption forms” will bring up these types of services.
The stepparent must make sure that the paperwork they acquire is specific to Missouri and that the service is accredited because these documents can differ from state to state.
Ordering forms from a court form service does not replace legal counsel. In fact, they do not and will not provide legal advice.
While completing the forms could be useful, it is always advised to seek the advice of a family law specialist to secure the best interests of the child and the stepparent.
Throughout the procedure, an attorney can offer direction and support, assist with paperwork, communicate with the court, and, if required, represent you in court.
Visit here for more information on the requirements to adopt in Missouri.
It can take several months to complete the Missouri adoption procedure for stepparents who want to adopt their stepchildren. A petition for adoption is filed, followed by a home study, background check, consent from the biological parent, termination of the biological parent’s rights, and adoption finalization.
Filing of the Petition for Adoption
In Missouri, the stepparent adoption procedure begins with the filing of the petition for adoption. The petition, a legal document submitted to the court, asks the judge to grant the stepparent’s request to adopt the stepchild.
The petition must be signed by the stepparent and contain particular information about the stepparent, the stepchild, and the biological parent.
The petition must detail the relationship between the stepparent and stepchild as well as the stepparent and stepchild’s names, addresses, and dates of birth.
It should also state the reason for the adoption, such as the need to give the child a secure and loving home and the readiness to take on the parental duty.
A home study report, which is typically completed by a social worker, must be filed with the court in addition to the petition.
Other forms the stepparent will also need to file with the court include a consent form, which must be signed by the biological parent and filed with the court, and a consent form.
It’s crucial to check that every form is correctly filled out, submitted, and has all the necessary data.
Throughout the process, an attorney can offer direction and support, assist with paperwork, communicate with the court, and, if required, represent you in court.
Home Study and Background Check
The stepparent adoption procedure in Missouri includes a home study and background check. These are carried out to make sure the child is safe and that the stepparent’s family and house are appropriate for the child.
The stepparent’s home and family are also evaluated as part of the home study, which is normally carried out by a social worker or another qualified individual.
The social worker will go to the house and talk to the stepparent, the stepchild, and any other residents while also seeing how they interact with one another.
The stepparent’s ability to meet the child’s needs will also be evaluated by the social worker, along with the physical and emotional climate of the family.
The home study report will be sent to the court and used in the decision-making process by the court.
The background investigation is also done to make sure the stepparent hasn’t had any criminal convictions that would endanger the child’s safety.
This will involve looking into the stepparent’s criminal history as well as any prior accusations of child abuse or neglect.
Stepparents must fully comply with the home study and background check procedures because these assessments are crucial in evaluating whether or not the adoption should be approved.
When deciding whether to approve the adoption, the court will take the findings of these assessments into account.
The stepparent must also communicate openly and honestly with the social worker and offer any information that is required.
Consent of the Biological Parent
The biological parent’s consent is an essential component of the stepparent adoption procedure in Missouri. The stepchild’s biological parent must approve the adoption before it may move forward and must sign and submit consent paperwork to the court in order to accomplish this.
The approval of the biological parent is crucial because it shows their readiness to give up their parental obligations and legal rights.
This includes their authority to decide on the child’s welfare, their right to see the child, and their obligation to provide for the child financially.
The biological parent might not agree to the adoption in several circumstances.
This could be the result of a number of factors, including a lack of knowledge about the adoption procedure, a lack of support for the stepparent, or a desire to maintain some kind of parental control.
The court may under certain circumstances revoke their parental rights, enabling the adoption to proceed without their approval.
Legally, the biological parent’s approval must be secured in order for the court to authorize the adoption; otherwise, the biological parent’s rights will be terminated.
It might be challenging to win the biological parent’s approval, so the stepparent should seek legal counsel to make sure all legal requirements are met.
In order to safeguard the child’s best interests throughout the process, an attorney can assist in negotiating with the biological parent.
Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights
In Missouri, a stepparent adoption may involve a legal procedure called the termination of the biological parent’s rights. This procedure involves a court hearing where the judge will weigh testimony and facts to decide whether to end the biological parent’s parental rights.
The rights of the biological parent may be terminated for a number of reasons, including:
- In the event that they decline to consent to the adoption
- If the child has been abandoned
- If they have been determined to be an unsuitable parent because of abuse, neglect, or an inability to meet the needs of the child
- If they have served a particular amount of time in prison
It is important to have legal representation that can present evidence and make a convincing argument in court because the biological parent has the right to oppose the termination of their rights.
The court must decide that terminating the biological parent’s rights is in the child’s best interest in order to do so.
This is decided after taking into account aspects like the child’s safety, emotional and physical health, and the stepparent’s capacity to meet the child’s needs.
Remember that the process of terminating parental rights is challenging and trying for everyone concerned, especially the child.
Finalization of the Adoption
Finalizing the adoption in Missouri is the last step in the stepparent adoption procedure. It signifies the end of the legal process and the acknowledgment of the stepparent as the stepchild’s legal parent.
The court will schedule a finalization hearing after the home study, background check, consent, and termination of the biological parent’s rights have been completed.
The court will consider all of the information and testimony provided during this hearing before making a final determination regarding the adoption.
The hearing may necessitate the presence of the biological parent (if their rights have not been terminated), the stepparent, the stepchild, and the biological child.
The stepparent will have all the rights and obligations of a parent if the adoption is accepted, making them the stepchild’s legally recognized parent.
This includes the authority to decide on the child’s welfare, the right to see the child, and the duty to provide for the child financially.
The adopted stepchild receives all of the legal rights and privileges just the same as being born to a parent, including inheritance rights, which will also apply to the stepchild.
Curious about how much it would cost to adopt your stepchild? We put together an article just for you.
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 Missouri
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 Missouri 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 Missouri?
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.
A qualified social worker must inspect your house and determine whether it is suitable.
You and any other adult members of your family are included in the evaluation. If the court so desires, it may waive this step of the procedure.
Does the Stepchild Have to Consent to an Adoption in Missouri?
A child who is fourteen (14) years and older must provide signed consent to their own adoption in Missouri. 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 Missouri?
Under citation code Rev. Stat. § 453.030, a father’s consent to an adoption in the state of Missouri involves the following.
Written consent shall be required of:
- The man who is presumed to be the father only if he has acted to establish paternity no later than 15 days after the birth of the child, or has filed with the putative father registry
The consent to the adoption of a child is not required of:
- A parent whose rights to the child have been terminated
- A parent of a child who has legally consented to the future adoption of the child
- A parent whose identity is unknown and cannot be ascertained at the time of the filing of the petition
- A man who has not been established to be the father and who is not presumed by law to be the father and who, after the conception of the child, executes a verified statement denying paternity and disclaiming any interest in the child
- A parent or other person who has not executed consent and fails to respond to notice
- A parent who has a mental condition that is shown by competent evidence either to be permanent or such that there is no reasonable likelihood that the condition can be reversed that renders the parent unable to knowingly provide the child the necessary care, custody, and control
- A parent who has for a period of at least 6 months for a child age 1 or older, or at least 60 days for a child under age 1, immediately prior to the filing of the petition for adoption, willfully abandoned the child or, for a period of at least 6 months immediately prior to the filing of the petition for adoption, willfully, substantially, and continuously neglected to provide the child with necessary care and protection
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.