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

North Carolina 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 North Carolina?

To adopt a stepchild in North Carolina, 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 North Carolina

For a variety of reasons, a stepparent in North Carolina may wish to adopt their stepchild. To formally create a parent-child bond and secure one’s parental obligations and rights may be one reason.

This can include having the ability to make decisions and having inheritance rights.

Adoption can also benefit the child and the stepparent emotionally and psychologically, giving them a sense of stability and security and making them feel like a real family.

The relationship between the stepparent and stepchild might be strengthened through adoption.

How to Adopt Your Stepchild in North Carolina

To adopt your stepchild in North Carolina 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

A lawyer is not necessary for North Carolina for a stepparent to adopt their stepchild. To help with the adoption process, however, one may want to at least consider hiring a lawyer.

In addition to ensuring that the adoption is carried out appropriately and in compliance with state laws, an attorney can offer direction and advice on the legal requirements for adoption.

They can also assist with the preparation and submission of the required legal paperwork as well as acting as the stepparent’s advocate in court.

A lawyer can also guide the stepparent through the adoption process’ intricacies and offer guidance on how to proceed in the event that any legal issues or conflicts come up.

Even if the adoption procedure is expected to go smoothly, a lawyer can give you confidence and ensure that everything is done correctly and lawfully.

Visit here for a board-certified adoption lawyer in North Carolina.

Visit Your Local Courthouse

At their local courthouse, stepparents in North Carolina who want to adopt their stepchild may be able to pick up court form packets. To make sure this is a possibility and that you have all the required paperwork and information, a stepparent will want to contact their local courtroom.

A lawyer can defend you in court, walk you through the procedure, and make sure your paperwork is completed correctly.

Attorneys can also give you valuable guidance and respond to any inquiries you may have regarding the procedure.

Find a local North Carolina courthouse near you.

Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service

In North Carolina, a stepparent may acquire stepchild adoption court forms from a service that sells court forms if they want to adopt their stepchild. Stepparent adoption forms can be accessed online, and these providers often offer court paperwork that is unique to the state of North Carolina.

You can download and complete these forms, then send them to the court as part of the adoption procedure, and some of these services will offer to fill them out for you.

It’s significant to remember that while these services frequently offer court forms, they do not and will not provide legal assistance.

The forms might be correct and current, but they might not account for particulars of the stepparent’s individual case, therefore it’s important to check with a local courthouse.

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

Adoption Process

In North Carolina, the adoption procedure for stepparents adopting their stepchildren normally entails a number of procedures, such as submitting an adoption petition, finishing a home study and background check, getting the biological parent’s permission, and concluding the adoption in court.

Filing of the Petition for Adoption

In North Carolina, submitting an adoption petition to the district court is the first step in the adoption procedure for stepparents who want to adopt their stepchildren. A legal document known as a petition must contain details on the stepparent and stepchild as well as the other parent’s approval.

The petition must contain information on the stepparent, such as their name, residence, line of work, and relationship to the stepchild.

Along with the stepchild’s name, birth date, and present residence, it should be included.

A brief account of the child’s childhood and the connection between the stepparent and stepchild must also be included in the petition.

The other parent’s permission is required, and the stepparent must also present documentation of residency and the results of a background investigation.

The stepparent might have to file a petition to revoke the other parent’s parental rights if the other parent is unable or unwilling to give consent.

The court will schedule a hearing for the stepparent to appear in court and present the petition once the petition is filed.

The petition will be examined by the court to make sure everything is included and that it is comprehensive.

The court may request more information or proof from the stepparent if there are any problems with the petition.

Remember that submitting an adoption petition is a legal procedure, thus it’s important to make sure that the information submitted is correct and comprehensive.

Having a lawyer assist you in the procedure is also a good idea because they can make sure that the paperwork is completed correctly and can represent you in court.

Home Study and Background Check

The stepparent will need to finish a home study and background check after the petition for adoption has been submitted to the court. This is a crucial stage in the adoption process since it guarantees that the child will be put in a home that is secure and appropriate.

The home study will entail an interview with the stepparent and stepchild as well as a house visit to evaluate the living circumstances.

It is normally carried out by a social worker or another qualified professional. The social worker may inquire about the child’s daily schedule, academics, and extracurricular activities in addition to watching interactions between the stepparent and stepchild.

The background check, which normally includes a look into any prior child welfare records and a look into criminal history, is also a crucial phase in the procedure.

This is to make sure the stepparent has never been abusive or neglected in the past.

The petition for adoption will be filed with the court, along with the findings of the background investigation and home study.

You should be aware that the home study and background check procedures can take a few weeks to complete, so you should be ready for them when they come up in the adoption process.

Inquiries regarding the stepparent’s background, family history, and any other information that might be pertinent to the adoption should also be anticipated.

Consent of the Biological Parent

The biological parent’s approval is a vital step in the stepparent adoption procedure since it enables the stepparent to officially adopt the child. A petition to revoke the rights of the biological parent may need to be filed by the stepparent if the biological parent is unable or unwilling to give consent.

The biological parent relinquishes their parental legal rights when they approve the adoption, passing them to the stepparent.

This is a significant choice that shouldn’t be made hastily. Before granting their approval, the biological parent should be thoroughly aware of the legal ramifications of their choice.

The biological parent’s consent can be expressed in writing and is often granted with the aid of a lawyer.

The biological parent’s name, signature, and date of signature must appear on the consent.

The biological parent’s consent should additionally say that they are giving it freely and voluntarily and are aware of the legal ramifications of their choice.

The stepparent might have to file a petition to revoke the biological parent’s parental rights if the biological parent is unable or unwilling to consent.

This usually entails a court hearing where the judge will weigh the child’s best interests as well as the reasons for the termination.

The court cannot finalize the adoption of a child by a stepparent without the biological parent’s approval, which is a legal requirement.

It’s also crucial to keep in mind that the consent of the biological parent should be given voluntarily.

Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights

The biological parent of a child could occasionally be unable or reluctant to give their approval for the adoption of their child by a stepparent. In certain circumstances, the stepparent could have to submit a petition to revoke the rights of the biological parent.

Parental rights termination is a serious legal proceeding that ends the relationship between a parent and their child legally.

As a result, the parent forfeits all of his or her parental rights and obligations, including the ability to decide how the child will be raised and cared for and to visit the child.

Parental rights are normally terminated after a hearing in court, where the judge will weigh the child’s best interests.

The safety of the child, the parent’s capacity to care for the child, and the child’s interactions with other family members are just a few examples of the issues the court will take into account.

The stepparent must show the court both proof of the child’s best interests and proof that the biological parent is unable or unwilling to consent to the adoption in order to submit a petition for termination of parental rights.

In addition to findings from social workers, therapists, or other specialists, this may contain testimony from the stepparent, the child, and other family members.

A lawyer should be retained to help with the process because terminating parental rights is a serious legal action, and they can help ensure that the evidence submitted is sufficient under the law and that the child’s best interests are represented in court.

Finalization of the Adoption

The adoption’s finalization is the last stage for stepparents who are adopting their stepchildren in North Carolina. The biological parent’s legal tie with the child is now ended when the court issues a final order of adoption officially acknowledging the stepparent as the child’s parent.

The petition for adoption, the home study, the background check, and the biological parent’s consent (or the court order terminating the biological parent’s rights) are all examples of the documentation and evidence that must be reviewed by the court before the adoption may be declared final.

The stepparent, the child, and any other interested parties may be required to attend the court’s final hearing as well.

The hearing’s goal is to confirm that all legal requirements have been satisfied and that the adoption is in the child’s best interests.

A final order of adoption, formally acknowledging the stepparent as the child’s parent, will be issued by the court following the hearing.

The child will receive a new birth certificate with the stepparent’s name listed as the parent after the adoption is officially registered with the state’s vital records office.

The adoption finalization process is a legal one, and it’s crucial to have legal counsel on your side since they can help guarantee that all legal requirements are satisfied and that the child’s best interests are upheld in court.

The finalization procedure might take many weeks or even months to complete, so be ready for this stage of the adoption process.

The stepparent will have all of the legal rights and obligations of a parent to the child once the adoption is finalized, including the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing and education, the right to see the child, and the duty to meet the child’s needs.

Additionally, the child will be legally entitled to inherit from the stepparent and be qualified for benefits like social security and health insurance.

A happy and loving family relationship will be more likely if the stepparent and the child have a solid relationship.

Spending time together, engaging in activities, and creating shared experiences are all effective ways to do this.

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 North Carolina

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 North Carolina 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 North Carolina?

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 the stepparent has not been married to the child’s parent for two years a home study is required. After two years of marriage, no home study is required.

The home study requirement can be waived by the clerk upon request.

Does the Stepchild Have to Consent to an Adoption in North Carolina?

A child who is twelve (12) years and older must provide signed consent to their own adoption in North Carolina. 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 North Carolina?

Under citation code Gen. Stat. §§ 48-3-601; 48-3-602, a father’s consent to an adoption in the state of North Carolina involves the following.

Consent to an adoption in a direct placement must be executed by:

  • Any man who may or may not be the biological father of the minor but who:
    • Is or was married to the mother
    • Attempted to marry the mother of the minor before the minor’s birth
    • Has legitimated the minor under the law of any State
    • Has acknowledged his paternity of the minor
    • Has received the minor into his home and openly held out the minor as his biological child
    • Is the adoptive father of the minor

Consent to an adoption of a minor is not required of:

  • An individual whose parental rights and duties have been terminated
  • A man, other than an adoptive father, who has been judicially determined not to be the father of the minor adoptee or another man has been judicially determined to be the father of the minor
  • An individual who has relinquished parental rights or guardianship powers, including the right to consent to adoption
  • A man who is not married to the minor’s birth mother and who, after the conception of the minor, has executed a notarized statement denying paternity or disclaiming any interest in the minor
  • A deceased parent or the personal representative of a deceased parent’s estate
  • An individual listed in § 48‑3‑601 who has not executed a consent or a relinquishment and who fails to respond to a notice of the adoption proceeding within 30 days after the service of the notice
  • An individual who does not respond to notice of the adoption proceedings in a timely manner or whose consent is not required as determined by the court
  • An individual whose actions resulted in a conviction under § 14‑27.2 or § 14‑27.3 and the conception of the minor to be adopted

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.