Vermont adoptions can be full of long processes and requirements, but 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 Vermont?
To adopt a stepchild in Vermont, 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.
There are a number of reasons a stepparent might want to adopt their stepchild in Vermont, including:
- Adoption gives the stepparent the same legal rights and obligations as a parent, including the ability to make choices on the child’s welfare, education, and medical treatment.
- Adoption can formally establish the emotional connection between a stepparent and stepchild while giving the kid a sense of permanence and security.
- Adopted children acquire the same rights as biological children, which may be crucial for estate planning and ensuring that the child is taken care of in the case that the biological parent passes away.
- If the child is adopted, they are free to adopt their stepparent’s last name.
- Improvement of the bond between the stepparent and stepchild as well as the biological parent and stepparent.
- If the biological parent is not involved in the child’s life, it may be a means to give him or her stability and continuity.
How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Vermont
To adopt your stepchild in Vermont 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
Although it is not legally necessary to hire a lawyer when adopting a stepchild in Vermont, it is certainly something to think about. The legal procedure of adopting a stepchild can at times be complicated and involve the submission of legal paperwork as well as court appearances.
The adoption procedure can be performed correctly, more smoothly, and in compliance with all legal requirements by hiring a lawyer.
Additionally, an attorney can defend the adoptive parent in court and help them understand their rights and obligations.
Legal counsel can also assist the adoptive parent in resolving any difficulties that may come up throughout the adoption procedure, such as disagreements with the biological parent or concerns regarding the welfare of the child.
It is especially important to have legal representation if the biological parent might oppose the adoption.
This will help to ensure that the procedure is followed appropriately and lower the likelihood that the adoption will be rejected.
Visit here for a board-certified adoption lawyer in Vermont.
Visit Your Local Courthouse
If a Vermont stepparent wants to adopt their stepchild, they should check with their local courthouse because they might be able to get the necessary paperwork there. Normally, these packets contain all the court forms and instructions needed to complete the adoption procedure.
The stepparent would be wise to get in touch with the courthouse in their area and inquire about the availability of these packets as well as any other conditions or requirements that need to be satisfied.
The stepparent should be able to obtain information from the court staff regarding the exact papers that must be completed as well as any additional paperwork that must be filed as part of the adoption procedure.
They could also give the stepparent more details about the adoption process’ procedures and fees, such as any court appearances or hearings that would be necessary.
The stepparent should keep in mind that adoption rules might differ from state to state, so they should check with the local court for Vermont’s particular requirements.
Making the process as easy as possible and guaranteeing that all legal criteria are completed can be achieved by obtaining court form packets and instructions from the neighborhood courthouse.
Find a local Vermont courthouse near you.
Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service
In Vermont, a stepparent who wants to adopt their stepchild can get the necessary paperwork through a service. The forms and instructions required to complete the adoption procedure are often provided by these agencies, but it’s crucial to understand that they do not and will not provide legal counsel.
A list of these kinds of services can be found by conducting a search on the internet for “stepparent adoption forms.” These services might also include other materials like checklists, schedules, and instructions on how to complete the forms properly.
Many of these services will offer to fill out these forms for the stepparent.
Visit here for more information on the requirements to adopt in Vermont.
The adoption procedure in Vermont for stepparents adopting their stepchildren usually involves a number of steps, such as 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 Vermont, submitting a petition for adoption to the court is the first step in the adoption procedure for a stepparent. The petition, which asks the court to approve the adoption and name the stepparent as the child’s legal parent, is a legal document.
The petition must contain detailed information regarding the biological parent, the stepparent, and the stepchild. These details could consist of:
- The name, age, and residence of the stepparent.
- The name, address, and age of the stepchild.
- The biological parent’s name, age, and address.
- The child’s relationship with the stepparent (i.e., stepfather or stepmother).
- Willingness and capacity of the stepparent to support the child.
- Current living arrangements for the child and the child’s connection with the stepparent.
- The petition must declare that the stepparent is the biological parent’s spouse in addition to the information mentioned above. This is significant because, under Vermont law, stepparents who are married to the biological parent of the child may adopt the child.
- A copy of the child’s birth certificate and copies of the marriage certificates of the stepparent and the biological parent must also be enclosed with the petition.
A filing fee will also need to be paid to the court, which can vary depending on the court and the details of the case.
The court will set a hearing date after the petition has been submitted, and both the stepparent and the child must appear.
The petition’s contents will be examined by the court, along with any submitted testimony, before it decides whether to approve the adoption.
If the adoption is approved by the court, both the stepparent and the child will be legally acknowledged as belonging to that person.
Home Study and Background Check
An inquiry into the home and family of the stepparent who is looking to adopt their stepchild in Vermont is known as a “home study.” In order to make sure the child will be placed in a secure and suitable family, this investigation is carried out by a certified professional, such as a social worker or a recognized adoption agency.
A social worker or another professional would often visit the stepparent’s house as part of the home study to observe the living situation, the dynamics of the family, and the child’s general safety and well-being.
They might also question the child, the stepparent, and any other occupants of the household.
The stepparent, the biological parent, and any other adults living in the family will all have their backgrounds checked as part of the home study.
This check will make sure that there is no history of abuse, neglect, or criminal activity in the home where the child will be placed.
The background check might examine a person’s criminal past, history with child protective services, and any other pertinent data that might have an effect on the safety and well-being of the child.
The court will receive the home study report, and the material in the report will be used by the court to determine whether or not to approve the adoption.
The court will move forward with the adoption process if the home study report is favorable.
It’s vital to keep in mind that the home study process can take a while and can go on for several months.
It serves to safeguard the child’s interests and guarantee that they will be put in a loving and secure environment, making it an essential stage in the adoption procedure.
Consent of the Biological Parent
The biological parent’s approval is a prerequisite in Vermont’s stepparent adoption procedure. In order for the court to approve the adoption, the biological parent must agree to it. The biological parent’s approval may be expressed verbally in court or in writing.
The biological parent must be made aware of their rights, the repercussions of consenting or refusing, and the fact that their consent is entirely a choice.
The court may revoke the biological parent’s parental rights if they are unable to do so.
Sometimes you don’t even need the biological parent’s permission.
For instance, the biological parent’s consent might not be required if they have abandoned the child, haven’t spoken to them in a while, or have had their parental rights terminated by the court for another reason.
The biological parent may occasionally oppose the adoption and file a legal lawsuit to stop it. This may make the adoption process more difficult and necessitate legal counsel.
The biological parent must consent to the termination of their parental rights if the stepparent is adopting the child with their approval.
The biological parent will no longer have any legal obligations or rights to the child as a result of this decision, which is final.
It is essential to acquire the biological parent’s legal consent since without it, the court will not move forward with the adoption procedure.
Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights
The biological parent’s rights must be terminated as part of the Vermont stepparent adoption procedure before the adoption can be legally finalized. In order for the stepparent to be recognized as the child’s legal parent, the biological parent’s parental rights must be terminated.
In Vermont, there are various ways to revoke a biological parent’s parental rights. One way is, as was already indicated, with the biological parent’s permission.
In this instance, the biological parent freely consents to the termination of their parental rights and the adoption.
The court may convene a hearing to decide whether the biological parent’s rights should be terminated if they refuse to approve the adoption or are unable to be found.
The biological parent’s rights may be terminated by the court if they have abandoned the child, haven’t spoken to the child in a long time, or if the court has already revoked their parental rights for another reason.
If the court determines that the biological parent has disregarded their obligations to the child, such as neglecting to support the child financially or failing to keep up regular contact with them, it may also decide to terminate their parental rights.
The decision to terminate the biological parent’s rights is final, which means the biological parent will no longer have any legal obligations or rights toward the child.
If you have any questions or concerns about the termination of the biological parent’s rights, it is vital to see an attorney. This may be a challenging and painful procedure for all parties involved.
The termination of the biological parent’s rights is essential since it is a prerequisite for the stepparent adoption procedure to proceed legally.
Finalization of the Adoption
The stepparent becomes the child’s legal parent after the conclusion of the adoption procedure in Vermont, known as “finalization of the adoption.”
The court will set a final adoption hearing once it has obtained the completed adoption petition, the results of the background check and home study, as well as the consent or termination of the biological parent’s rights.
The court will examine all the paperwork and proof during the final adoption hearing to make sure the adoption is in the child’s best interests.
The court may order the stepparent, the child, and the biological parent to appear at the hearing and may question them.
The court will approve the adoption and issue an adoption order if it determines that it is in the child’s best interests.
If the child’s name is changed, it will be listed here along with the adoptive parents’ names.
The legal procedure is completed when the adoption is finalized, and the stepparent is then granted full parental rights and obligations.
The stepparent will have the same obligations and rights as a biological parent, including the power to decide how the child will be raised and the duty to provide for his or her needs.
Following completion, the child will have a legal relationship with the stepparent and be eligible to inherit from them as well as use their life and health insurance benefits.
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 Lawyers.FindLaw.com.
Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption in Vermont
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 Vermont 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.
- Vermont Judiciary – Court Forms
- Vermont Adoption Act – Adoption of Minor Stepchild by Stepparent
- Vermont Agency of Human Services – Department for Children and Families
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 Vermont?
In traditional adoptions, a thorough home study is conducted, which involves a social worker evaluating the inside and outside of your home, interviews with each person in the household, and many other substantial evaluations.
Stepparent adoptions in Vermont are far less extensive.
Does the Stepchild Have to Consent to an Adoption in Vermont?
A child who is fourteen (14) years and older must provide signed consent to their own adoption in Vermont. 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 Vermont?
Under citation code Ann. Stat. Tit. 15A, § 2-401, a father’s consent to an adoption in the state of Vermont involves the following.
In a direct placement of a minor for adoption by a parent or guardian, a petition to adopt the minor may be granted only when consent to the adoption has been executed by:
- The biological father identified by the mother or as otherwise known to the court
- A man who is or has been married to the woman if the minor was born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage was terminated or a court issued a decree of separation
- A man who meets all of the following conditions:
- Was not married to the minor’s mother at the time of the child’s birth
- Has acknowledged his paternity of the minor by executing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or has filed a notice to retain parental rights
- Has demonstrated a commitment to the responsibilities of parenthood by establishing a custodial, personal, or financial relationship with the child, unless he was prevented from demonstrating such commitment or was unable to demonstrate such commitment
Consent to an adoption of a minor is not required of:
- A person who has relinquished parental rights or guardianship powers, including the right to consent to adoption, to an agency
- A person whose parental relationship to the minor has been judicially terminated or determined not to exist
- A man who has not been married to the woman who gave birth to the minor and who, after the conception of the minor, executes a notarized statement denying paternity or disclaiming any interest in the minor and acknowledging that his statement is irrevocable when executed
- The personal representative of a deceased parent’s estate
- A parent or other person who has not executed a consent or a relinquishment and who fails to file an answer or make an appearance in a proceeding for adoption or for termination of a parental relationship within the requisite time after service of notice of the proceeding
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.