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

South 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 South Carolina?

To adopt a stepchild in South 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 South Carolina

A South Carolina stepparent may choose to adopt their stepchild for a number of reasons.
Adopting a stepchild can give the stepparent and the child a formal parent-child relationship, giving the stepchild certain legal rights and privileges.

This includes the power to inherit property, make medical decisions, and, if the stepparent qualifies, receive social security or veteran’s benefits.

The child may gain emotionally and psychologically from being adopted as a stepchild.

Knowing that they are permanently bound to their stepparent might provide the child a sense of stability and belonging.

Additionally, it can foster a sense of family cohesion and deepen the relationship between the child and the stepparent.

Adoption may occasionally assist in resolving custody or child support disputes.

The adoption can aid in establishing the stepparent’s legal obligation to care for the child if the biological parent is not actively involved in the child’s life or is not providing financial support.

Similarly, adoption can aid in establishing the stepparent’s legal custody rights if the biological parent has not been actively involved in the child’s life and the stepparent has served as the primary caregiver.

Last but not least, adoption can create a lasting and legal link between the child and the stepparent that can give the youngster a sense of security and stability in the event of unforeseen occurrences like the death or incapacity of the other parent.

How to Adopt Your Stepchild in South Carolina

To adopt your stepchild in South 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

It is not necessary to retain legal counsel in order to adopt a stepchild in South Carolina. However, the adoption process can sometimes be complicated, so it’s important to consider hiring a lawyer who can offer advice and make sure that all legal criteria are met.

A lawyer can also guide you through any difficulties or problems that could come up during the adoption procedure.

Keep in mind that while navigating the adoption process without legal counsel may be possible, doing so might make things easier, quicker, and less stressful. Having legal counsel is advisable in the event that a future legal problem arises.

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

Visit Your Local Courthouse

In South Carolina, a stepparent should consult with their local courthouse if they want to adopt their stepchild. The adoption procedure can be started using court form packets that may be accessible at the local courthouse.

The forms and instructions needed to complete them properly are often included in these packets.

For the adoption to be accepted, it is important that the forms be fully filled out and that the necessary data be submitted.

You should check with the exact courthouse where the adoption will be filed because the requirements and processes for adoption may differ from county to county.

More thorough information on the particular requirements for adoption in that county can be obtained from a local attorney or the court clerk.

A court will evaluate the child’s best interests and may order a home study, background check, and examination of the stepparent’s relationship with the child before granting a stepparent’s adoption.

Find a local South Carolina courthouse near you.

Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service

In South Carolina, a stepparent who wants to adopt their stepchild can get the necessary paperwork through a service. A list of these services can be accessed by conducting a search on the internet for “stepparent adoption forms.”

Remember that while these businesses offer court forms that can be used to start the adoption process, they cannot and will not give legal counsel.

A stepparent will need to realize that while these documents may be used to start the adoption process, they do not serve as a replacement for legal counsel.

These forms can be inaccurate, inadequate, or unsuited to the particular circumstance.

Additionally, keep in mind that adoption regulations and processes might differ from county to county, therefore it is crucial to confirm with the particular courthouse where the adoption will be filed.

More thorough information on the particular requirements for adoption in that county can be obtained from a local attorney or the court clerk.

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

Adoption Process

A petition for adoption must be filed with the court in order for stepparents to adopt their stepchildren in South Carolina. The county where the child resides must receive the petition. Usually, there are multiple steps in the procedure, including a home investigation, a background check, and the biological parent’s approval.

In order to complete the adoption, the court must also revoke the biological parent’s rights.

Filing of the Petition for Adoption

In South Carolina, the stepparent adoption procedure begins with the filing of the petition for adoption. The stepparent must file the petition, which must contain particular information on all individuals engaged in the adoption.

This data consists of:

  • The biological parent, the child, and the stepparent’s names, addresses, and dates of birth.
  • A declaration that the stepparent is ready, willing, and able to adopt the kid and that doing so is in the child’s best interests.
  • A declaration indicating the biological parent has approved the adoption or justification for not needing their approval.
  • Information regarding the child’s present residence, including the names and addresses of any current caregivers.
  • Information on any earlier adoption cases the child may have been involved in.

The county where the child resides must receive the petition. Normally, the court will set up a hearing to go over the petition and make sure the adoption is in the child’s best interests.

It is significant to note that the court will demand the signatures of the biological parent, the child, and the stepparent, as well as the presence of a notary public to witness the signing.

In addition, the court will want a filing fee, which varies depending on the county, in order to file the petition.

The court may need more proof or information before the adoption can move forward.

This can involve running a background check on the stepparent as well as providing confirmation of residency and income.

Home Study and Background Check

Stepparent adoption in South Carolina involves several crucial steps, including a home study and background investigation. They are employed to assess the stepparent’s and the child’s living situation and to determine whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child.

Home Study

A qualified social worker will visit the house of the stepparent and conduct a home study to assess the living arrangements and the child’s surroundings as a whole.

In order to evaluate the relationship between the stepparent and the child and to decide whether the stepparent is capable of giving the child a safe and stable environment, the social worker will also interview the stepparent, the child, and any other members of the home.

The social worker will also visit the child in the household and make observations; they will then write up their findings and submit a report to the court.

Background Check

The stepparent will also need to submit to a background check, per court order. A criminal history check and a lookup of any earlier accusations of child abuse or neglect are often included in this.

The stepparent’s previous marriages and divorces will also be examined by the court, along with any unpaid alimony or child support commitments.

The background check is done to make sure the stepparent has no criminal record or other concerns that would prevent them from being a good parent.

To make sure that the adoption is in the child’s best interests and to safeguard the child from any potential harm, it is crucial to conduct a home study and background check.

As they will be able to advise on any additional needs that may be particular to the county where the adoption is filed, it is crucial to have an attorney assist with these stages.

When deciding whether to approve the adoption, the court will consider the findings of the home study and background investigation.

The adoption procedure can move forward if the court decides that the home study and background check are satisfactory.

Before approving the adoption, the court may request additional procedures or evaluations if any issues or concerns are raised.

The background check and home study procedures can take many weeks to complete.

To prevent any delays in the adoption process, it is crucial that the stepparent supply accurate and comprehensive information during the home study and background check.

Home study and background check costs can differ by county.

Consent of the Biological Parent

In South Carolina, obtaining the biological parent’s consent is a crucial stage in the stepparent adoption procedure. To move forward with the adoption, the biological parent must provide their approval. The agreement needs to be in writing and notarized.

If the biological parent agrees to the adoption, they must sign the adoption consent document in front of a notary public.

The permission form will say that the biological parent willingly consents to the adoption and will provide details concerning the adoption, such as the child’s name and the stepparent’s.

If the adoption is still permitted despite the original parent’s opposition, it will be done so because it is in the child’s best interests.

The biological parent’s rights in this situation may be terminated by the court, and the adoption may go through without their approval.

To decide whether the biological parent’s rights should be terminated and whether the adoption is in the child’s best interests, the court may order a hearing.

It’s vital to remember that the biological parent has the right to dispute the adoption and must be informed of the proceedings. In rare circumstances, it might also be necessary for the biological parent to consent to a background check and house inspection.

The biological parent’s consent must be secured with the assistance of an attorney who can advise on the legal requirements and ensure that the consent is obtained correctly and on time.

It’s also crucial to remember that giving permission does not absolve the biological parent of their financial obligations to the child.

Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights

In South Carolina, the termination of the biological parent’s rights, a court procedure that legally separates the biological parent’s rights and obligations for the child, is a crucial step in the stepparent adoption procedure.

When the biological parent is unable or unwilling to give their approval to the adoption, it is typically necessary.

If the court decides that doing so is in the child’s best interest, the biological parent’s rights will be terminated.

If a parent is deemed unsuitable or has abandoned the child, the court may suspend or revoke their parental rights.

To decide whether the biological parent’s rights should be terminated and whether the adoption is in the child’s best interests, the court may order a hearing.

The court will take into account things including the child’s safety, well-being, and the chance of adoption.

It is significant to remember that the biological parent has the right to challenge the termination of their rights and will need to be informed of the adoption proceedings.

A background check and home study might also be requested of the biological parent.

The termination of the biological parent’s rights should be handled with the assistance of a lawyer who can provide advice on the legal requirements and ensure that the rights are terminated properly and on time.

Finalization of the Adoption

The stepparent adoption procedure in South Carolina comes to a conclusion with the finalization of the adoption. It is the legal procedure through which the child acquires the same rights and privileges as a biological child and legally becomes the stepparent’s child.

The court will set a final hearing after receiving the home study, background check, consent of the biological parent, and termination of the biological parent’s rights (if required).

The court will assess the adoption petition, the home study, the background check, and any other pertinent documents at the final hearing to make sure the adoption is in the child’s best interests.

The stepparent, the child, and the biological parent (if their rights have not been terminated) will all have the chance to address the court during the final hearing about the adoption.

Additional parties with an interest in the adoption, such as the child’s attorney, may also speak to the court.

A final order of adoption will be entered by the court if it determines that it is in the child’s best interest.

The child will have the same legal parental rights and privileges as a biological child as a result of this order, which will establish the stepparent as the child’s legal parent.

The child will receive a new birth certificate with the stepparent’s name listed as the parent once the formal order of adoption has been entered.

If they so want, the child may also adopt their stepparent’s last name.

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 South 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 South 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 South 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.

Unless the court orders otherwise, you will most likely be excused from the home study for adoption if you are adopting a child as a stepparent or relative.

Adoption home study criteria may also be avoided if you are a foster parent trying to adopt a child who currently lives in your home.

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

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

Under citation Ann. Code § 63-9-310, a father’s consent to an adoption in the state of South Carolina involves the following.

Consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption is required by:

  • The parents or surviving parent of a child conceived or born during the marriage of the parents
  • The father of a child born when the father was not married to the child’s mother if the child was placed with the prospective adoptive parents more than 6 months after the child’s birth, but only if the father has maintained substantial and continuous or repeated contact with the child
  • The father of a child born when the father was not married to the child’s mother, if the child was placed with the prospective adoptive parents less than 6 months after the child’s birth, but only if the father openly lived with the child or the child’s mother and openly held himself out to be the father or paid a fair and reasonable sum for the support of the child

Consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption is not required of the following persons:

  • A parent whose parental rights have been terminated
  • A parent whom the family court finds to be mentally incapable of giving consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption and whom the court finds to be unlikely to provide minimally acceptable care to the child and whose capacity is unlikely to be restored for a reasonable period of time, and, in the court’s judgment, it would be detrimental to the child to delay adoption
  • The biological parent of a child conceived as a result of that parent’s criminal sexual conduct or incest
Trina Greenfield - Adoption Author

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.