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

Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island?

To adopt a stepchild in Rhode Island, 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 Rhode Island

For a variety of reasons, a stepparent in Rhode Island may wish to adopt their stepchild.

Establishing a formal parent-child relationship and granting the child legal rights and obligations, such as the power to make decisions and access to healthcare, might be one reason.

Another reason would be to give the child stability and security because they will have a parent who is recognized by the law and who can support them emotionally, financially, and physically.

In addition, the child will feel safer in their familial interactions and will have a sense of belonging. Adoption might facilitate estate and inheritance planning.

How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Rhode Island

To adopt your stepchild in Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island. But if you want to make sure the adoption procedure is handled appropriately and effectively, you might think about hiring a lawyer.

A lawyer may assist the stepparent in navigating the legal system, make sure that all required paperwork is submitted, and guarantee that the rights of all parties are upheld.

The stepparent can also benefit from legal advice from a lawyer, who can also represent them in court if necessary.

A lawyer can also analyze any contracts or agreements pertaining to the adoption to ensure that they are accurate, fair, and enforceable.

Keep in mind that the adoption process can be mentally and emotionally draining for both the stepparent and the child.

As a result, a lawyer can help reduce stress by managing legal issues so the stepparent can concentrate on the adoption’s emotional aspects.

Visit here for a board-certified adoption lawyer in Rhode Island.

Visit Your Local Courthouse

It is crucial for stepparents in Rhode Island to contact their neighborhood courts for details and resources on the adoption procedure before they decide to adopt their stepchild. For stepparents who want to adopt their stepchild, court form packets may be available at the local courthouse.

The paperwork and instructions needed to complete the adoption procedure are typically included in these packets, along with filing instructions.

An adoption clerk or other staff member at the local courthouse may also be able to help stepparents with the procedure and respond to any questions they may have.

They can also give the stepparent the pertinent details about the costs, court dates, and adoption procedure.

In order to ensure that the adoption procedure is carried out legally and effectively, it is important for stepparents to contact their local courthouse and collect the relevant information and materials.

Find a local Rhode Island courthouse near you.

Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service

In Rhode Island, a stepparent who wants to adopt a stepchild can get the necessary paperwork through a service. Finding these services online is as simple as doing an online search for “stepparent adoption forms”.

The court forms, which are exclusive to the state of Rhode Island, are provided by these services, including the petition for adoption, consent forms, and other paperwork needed by the court.

It is significant to remember that, despite the fact that these services offer court forms, they cannot and will not provide legal advice.

The stepparent will be in charge of correctly completing the forms, ensuring that all necessary documents are included, and submitting them to the court.

With that said, there are some services that will fill out the court forms for you.

Stepparents are in charge of making sure the adoption is carried out legally and in accordance with the court’s standards, as well as comprehending and adhering to Rhode Island’s adoption laws and regulations.

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

Adoption Process

In Rhode Island, the adoption procedure for stepparents adopting their stepchildren typically entails several steps, including submitting a petition for adoption, concluding a home study and background check, obtaining the biological parent’s consent, terminating the biological parent’s rights, and finalizing the adoption.

Filing of the Petition for Adoption

In Rhode Island, the first stage in the adoption process for stepparents is to file the petition for adoption. The petition must be submitted by the stepparent to the proper court, usually the family court in the county where the stepparent and child reside.

The stepparent must give the court specific information when submitting the petition, including the child’s name, address, and those of the stepparent and biological parent, as well as the rationale for the adoption.

The stepparent must also file all needed court paperwork, such as the Petition for Adoption and any additional paperwork the judge may specify.

Remember that the court forms must be filled out accurately and completely because any mistakes or missing data might cause the adoption process to be delayed or result in the petition being denied.

When filing the petition, the stepparent must also pay the appropriate filing fee.

The stepparent must also submit to the court an affidavit made under oath stating that they have shared custody of the child for at least six months and that they are willing to adopt the child.

Home Study and Background Check

Important phases in the adoption process for stepparents in Rhode Island include a home inspection and background investigation. A social worker or another expert often conducts the home study, visiting the stepparent’s residence to evaluate the living arrangements and conducting interviews with the stepparent, the kid, and other family members.

The social worker will next deliver a report to the judge outlining their conclusions and suggestions.

An evaluation of the stepparent’s residence and living arrangements, including the child’s bedroom, common areas, and the overall safety of the home, will typically be part of the home study.

The stepparent’s relationship with the child, including the level of care and attention given, as well as the child’s mental and physical well-being, will also be assessed by the social worker.

The stepparent’s capacity to care for the child on a financial, emotional, and physical level will also be evaluated by the social worker.

A stepparent background check will be done in addition to the home study.

This will normally involve checking the stepparent’s criminal history and any history of working with child protective services or other social service organizations.

The background check will be performed to make sure the stepparent is qualified to adopt a kid and has no history of abuse or neglect.

It’s important to keep in mind that the background check and home study procedures might take several weeks or even months to complete, and it’s important to cooperate with the social worker or other professional conducting the study and comply with their requirements.

In addition, the background check and home study are not merely formalities but rather an essential phase in the adoption process that guarantees the child will be put in a suitable and safe household.

A home study is not always required in Rhode Island if the stepparent has been the child’s primary caregiver for at least a year prior to filing the petition for adoption or if the stepparent has been married to the child’s biological parent for at least three years.

It’s also vital to be aware that the costs associated with the home study and background check will vary based on the organization or individual performing the study, but they typically are not paid for by the state.

Consent of the Biological Parent

The biological parent’s approval is a vital step in the adoption procedure in Rhode Island for stepparents. The adoption cannot continue without the written approval of the biological parent, who is typically the non-custodial parent.

The biological parent’s consent must be obtained voluntarily and without coercion, which is vital to emphasize.

The consent will be carefully examined by the court to make sure it was provided voluntarily and without undue influence.

The court may move on with the adoption if it is in the child’s best interests even if the biological parent refuses to give consent or cannot be found.

It may also be necessary for the adoptive parent’s biological parent to appear in court to give testimony and respond to adoption-related inquiries.

This is done to guarantee that the adoption is in the child’s best interests and that the biological parent is aware of the implications of their consent.

Even with the biological parent’s approval, the adoption may not necessarily go through.

The court will take into account all the information and decide what is in the child’s best interests.

Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights

In Rhode Island, a crucial stage in the adoption procedure for stepparents is the termination of the biological parent’s rights. During this procedure, the biological parent’s legal rights and obligations toward the child are terminated, including the ability to decide on the child’s welfare, education, and care as well as the obligation to give financial support.

A court hearing called a termination of parental rights hearing is often used to end the biological parent’s rights.

A judge will preside over this hearing, which must be held before the adoption may be legally finalized.

The biological parent’s ability to provide for the child, the stepparent’s ability to create a stable and loving environment, and any other pertinent facts will all be taken into account by the court during the hearing along with the evidence put out by both parties.

The biological parent’s rights won’t be terminated unless the court determines that doing so is in the child’s best interests.

The child’s age, how long they have lived with the stepparent, and their connection may all be taken into account by the court in addition to other things.

The biological parent may accept freely the termination of their rights, but occasionally they may challenge the adoption.

In the event that the biological parent challenges the adoption, the court will weigh the available information and decide what is in the child’s best interests.

Finalization of the Adoption

In Rhode Island, finalizing the adoption is the last stage in the adoption process for stepparents. In this stage, the court issues a final adoption order, ending the biological parent’s legal rights and naming the stepparent as the child’s legal parent.

The child will have the same legal obligations and rights upon the issuance of the final adoption order, including the right to inherit from the stepparent, the right to adopt the stepparent’s last name, and the right to financial support from the stepparent.

Additionally, the stepparent will be legally obligated to take care of the child, including making decisions regarding the child’s welfare, education, and care.

Once the home study, background check, and termination of parental rights have been completed and the court has decided that the adoption is in the child’s best interests, the adoption is usually finalized.

A new birth certificate for the child will be issued after the adoption is finalized, and it will name the stepparent as the child’s parent.

Once an adoption is finalized, it cannot be reversed. The biological parent will no longer have any legal rights or obligations toward the child, and the stepparent will have the same rights and obligations as a biological parent.

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.

For an adoption attorney near you, visit

Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption in Rhode Island

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 Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island?

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.

Adoption petitions for minors under the age of 18 are filed with the Rhode Island Family Court.

A home study is required by the court, and the child must live with the adoptive parents for at least 6 months before the adoption petition may be submitted.

The birth parents’ parental rights must be terminated or they must consent to the adoption.

When a child is adopted, the adoptive parent(s) takes on all of the rights and duties of a birth parent.

Does the Stepchild Have to Consent to an Adoption in Rhode Island?

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

Under citation Gen. Laws §§ 15-7-5; 15-7-10, a father’s consent to an adoption in the state of Rhode Island involves the following.

The parents of the child, or their survivor, shall consent in writing to the adoption.

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.