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

South Dakota 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 Dakota?

To adopt a stepchild in South Dakota, 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 Dakota

A stepparent in South Dakota could choose to adopt their stepchild for a number of reasons:

  • Adoption provides a stepparent the same legal rights and obligations as a biological parent, including the power to make decisions and the ability to inherit the child.
  • Adoption can strengthen the emotional connection between a stepparent and stepchild, resulting in a more solid and secure family unit.
  • Since the stepparent will have the same legal rights as a biological parent and the ability to make decisions on the child’s behalf, adoption can offer security for the child in the event that something were to happen to the biological parent.
  • The process of changing a child’s name is streamlined after the adoption of a stepchild since it is frequently simpler for a stepparent to have the child’s last name legally changed to match their own.
  • Having a stable family, a legal relationship with their stepparent, and the opportunity for greater resources and opportunities are all benefits of adopting a stepchild.

How to Adopt Your Stepchild in South Dakota

To adopt your stepchild in South Dakota you can either hire a lawyer, visit your local courthouse and ask if they provide stepchild adoption court form packets, or purchase court forms through a service that specializes in stepchild adoption court forms.

Hire an Adoption Lawyer

Adopting a stepchild does not require legal representation in South Dakota. To help in the adoption process, however, it is advised to consider hiring an attorney.

An attorney can help ensure that all legal criteria are met and the adoption is properly completed by offering invaluable advice and representation throughout the adoption process.

The consent of the biological parent or any other obstacles that might come up during the adoption process can also be negotiated with the aid of an attorney.

Additionally, a lawyer can assist in making sure that all parties, including the child and the biological father, have their rights upheld throughout the procedure.

Legal counsil can offer guidance and support to the adoptive parent(s) throughout the trying and emotional adoption process.

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

Visit Your Local Courthouse

Stepparents in South Dakota who want to adopt their stepchildren may inquire with their local courthouse for details and instructions on the adoption procedure.

The county courthouse will be able to provide details on the particular prerequisites and steps for stepparent adoption, as well as any forms or paperwork that needs to be filled out and submitted.

Stepparents may possibly be able to get court form packets at their local courthouse that contain all the requisite paperwork and instructions for stepparent adoption.

These packets normally include instructions on how to fill out the paperwork and any other information necessary for the adoption process.

They are created to make the adoption process as easy and uncomplicated as possible.

The other biological parent of the child, if still alive and whose parental rights have not been terminated, must typically provide their consent before the adoption of a stepparent can proceed.

A home study and background investigation of the adopting stepparent will also be part of the adoption procedure.

Find a local South Dakota courthouse near you.

Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service

In South Dakota, a stepparent may buy stepchild adoption court forms from a service if they want to adopt their stepchild. These services can be found by searching the internet for “stepparent adoption paperwork.”

To begin the adoption process, these services offer stepchild adoption forms that are exclusive to the state of South Dakota.

It is crucial to keep in mind that these services just offer court forms; they cannot and will not offer legal counsel.

The majority of these stepparent adoption court forms can be completed on a computer, but it’s crucial to ensure that all the necessary information is provided and that the forms are filled out correctly.

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

Adoption Process

There are various steps in the South Dakota adoption procedure when stepparents adopt their stepchildren. A petition for adoption, a legal document that starts the adoption process, is often filed to start things off. The procedure also includes getting the biological parent’s approval, doing a background check, and, in some circumstances, terminating that parent’s parental rights.

Filing of the Petition for Adoption

In South Dakota, the stepparent adoption procedure begins with the petition for adoption being filed. The petition, a legal document that is normally submitted to the neighborhood courtroom, asks the judge to approve the adoption of the child.

Information on the adoptive stepparent, the child, and the biological parent will all be included in the petition.

The adoptive parent must sign the petition, and it must be submitted with the required cost.

The cost may vary according to the county, and certain courts may waive the cost for low-income families.

If the other biological parent is still living and has not had their parental rights terminated, a consent document from that parent must be included with the petition as well.

Typically, the petition will contain the following details:

  • Name, residence, and birthdate of the adoptive parents as well as the adoptee
  • Relationship between the child and the adoptive parents
  • Justifications for the adoption request
  • A declaration that the adopting parents are aware of their rights and obligations as parents and that they are ready to take on those obligations
  • Name, address, and if the other biological parent has consented to the adoption are provided for the other biological parent.

After the petition is submitted, the court will analyze it and might set up a hearing to decide if the adoption is in the child’s best interests.

Before rendering a ruling, the court can also need more details or supporting evidence.

The petition must be correctly filled out and all necessary information must be provided. Any inaccuracies or omissions in the petition could cause it to be rejected or cause the adoption procedure to be delayed.

It is recommended to seek legal advice so that you can make sure the petition is properly filled out and complies with all legal requirements.

Home Study and Background Check

In South Dakota, the stepparent adoption procedure includes a significant amount of home study and background investigation. A social worker will undertake a home study to evaluate the home environment, the adoptive parents’ parenting abilities, and the best interests of the child.

The background investigation process includes looking at the adoptive parents’ criminal records.

Before the adoption is approved, a home study is usually undertaken, and it usually includes the following:

  • An evaluation of the home’s conditions, including its security, cleanliness, and overall fitness for raising children.
  • Interviews with the adopting couple, the child, and any other family members are also conducted.
  • The adopting couple’s financial and job situation is also examined, as is their criminal and abuse histories.
  • An examination of any additional pertinent data, including medical or academic records.

In order for the court to evaluate if the child will be secure and well cared for in the adoptive parent’s home, the home study is a crucial step in the adoption process.

Another important step in the adoption process is the background investigation, which is done to protect the child.

The adoptive parent’s criminal histories will be checked as part of the background investigation, and in some situations, it might also look into their career and credit histories as well as any other pertinent data.

It’s significant to remember that before the adoption can be approved, the court must receive the findings of the home study and background check, which could take several weeks to complete.

Consent of the Biological Parent

The biological parent’s consent is crucial to the South Dakota stepparent adoption procedure. The biological parent’s approval is required for the adoption to move forward since they have legal rights to the child that must be terminated before the adoption may happen.

Depending on the specifics of the situation, there are various ways to get the biological parent’s approval.

The biological parent will normally sign a permission form, which will be submitted to the court with the petition for adoption if they agree to the adoption.

The biological parent’s name, residence, and date of birth are often included on the permission form, along with a declaration confirming their knowledge of their parental obligations and willingness to relinquish custody of the child.

The court may revoke the biological parent’s rights through a procedure known as a termination of parental rights if the biological parent refuses to consent to the adoption.

The biological parent may engage in this process voluntarily or may be forced to do so by a court order.

The agreement of the remaining biological parent is not necessary if the other parent has passed away or had their parental rights terminated.

Before the adoption can be legally finalized, the biological parent’s approval must be sought.

The adoption cannot go forward without the biological parent’s approval, and the stepparent will not be considered the child’s legal adoptive parent.

The biological parent’s consent must be requested voluntarily and without coercion.

The court may declare the consent invalid if it determines that it was gained under duress or through unfair persuasion.

Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights

The termination of the biological parent’s rights, which legally severs the biological parent and child’s relationship, is a crucial stage in the South Dakota stepparent adoption procedure.

The biological parent has legal rights to the child that must be terminated before the adoption can take place, so this procedure is essential for the adoption to move forward.

The rights of the biological parent might be revoked either freely or involuntarily.

The consent form will be submitted to the court together with the petition for adoption if the biological parent wishes to give up their parental rights.

This is referred to as parental rights termination voluntarily.

Involuntary termination of parental rights is a legal procedure that allows the court to terminate parental rights if the biological parent refuses to do so.

The state, the other biological parent, the stepparent, or both can start this process.

The court will weigh the information presented by both parties and decide whether the biological parent’s rights should be terminated during an involuntary termination of parental rights proceeding.

The court will take into account things including the child’s best interests, the biological parent’s capacity to raise the child, and any prior incidents of abuse or neglect.

The court may also take into account how long the child has lived with the stepparent, how much financial and emotional assistance the stepparent offers, and how the child feels about the stepparent.

Termination of a biological parent’s rights is a serious matter, and the court will only do so if it finds that doing so is in the child’s best interests.

Finalization of the Adoption

 The stepparent adoption procedure in South Dakota is completed by finalizing the adoption. At this stage, the court issues a final order of adoption designating the stepparent as the child’s legal parent.

The court must receive and accept the home study, background check, and consent of the biological parent (if applicable) before the adoption can be legally finalized and the biological parent’s rights terminated if necessary.

The adoption will be legally finalized in a hearing after the court has received all required paperwork.

The hearing must be attended by the stepparent, the kid, and the other biological parent (if relevant).

The court will analyze the case during the hearing and inquire about adoption approval from the stepparent, the child, and any other biological parents involved if any.

A final order of adoption will be issued by the court if she determines that the adoption is in the child’s best interests and that all legal conditions have been satisfied.

The child will have all the rights and obligations of a child born to the stepparent once the final adoption order has been granted, making the stepparent the child’s legal parent.

The stepparent will also have the ability to decide the child’s upbringing and education, as well as the right to inherit from the child.

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 Dakota

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 Dakota 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 Dakota?

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.

Step-parent adoptions do not require an adoptive home study or investigation as the child remains in the home with a birth parent.

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

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

Under citation Codified Laws § 25-6-4, a father’s consent to an adoption in the state of South Dakota involves the following.

If it is in the best interests of the child, the court may waive consent from a parent or putative father who:

  • Has been convicted of any crime punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary for a period that, in the opinion of the court, will deprive the child of the parent’s companionship for a critical period of time
  • Has, by clear and convincing evidence, abandoned the child for 6 months or more immediately prior to the filing of the petition
  • Has substantially and continuously or repeatedly neglected the child and refused to give the child necessary parental care and protection
  • Being financially able, has willfully neglected to provide the child with the necessary subsistence, education, or other care necessary for the child’s health, morals, or welfare or has neglected to pay for such subsistence, education, or other care if legal custody of the child is lodged with others and such payment ordered by the court
  • Is unfit by reason of habitual abuse of intoxicating liquor or narcotic drugs
  • Has been judicially deprived of the custody of the child, if the adjudication is final on appeal to the court of last resort or the time for an appeal has expired
  • Has caused the child to be conceived as a result of rape or incest
  • Does not appear personally or by counsel at the hearing to terminate parental rights after the notice was received at least 30 days prior to the hearing

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.