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 the state of Vermont, both biological parents must give their permission. If the absent parent has abandoned the child for an extended period, this requirement may be waived. Exceptions to these requirements may apply.
Most of the time, both biological parents will need to give their permission for the stepparent to adopt this child.
Reasons for not requiring the absent parent’s consent to the adoption may include neglect, incarceration, or proving the biological parent unable or unfit to be the parent.
If the stepchild is over the age of 14, they must give their consent to the adoption and must understand that adoption will mean that the other birth parent will no longer be a legal part of their life.
As implied, the spouse of one of the child’s parents adopts the child legally. This process, in turn, terminates the parental rights of the non-custodial, biological parent.
A biological parent can contest this type of adoption, so you will want to be sure to obtain the biological parent’s permission to legally proceed with the adoption.
With the divorce rate being what it is these days, it is very common to see stepparents adopting their stepchildren.
How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Vermont
You want to adopt your stepchild, but how?
Adopting a stepchild in the state of Vermont requires both biological parents to give their permission for the stepparent to adopt, but if the absent parent has abandoned the child for an extended period, this requirement may be waived. Exceptions to these requirements may apply.
Adopting your stepchild is not as complicated as other types of adoption. The very first thing you should do is visit your local courthouse.
Explain why you are there to the person at the information counter, which is typically in the lobby when you first walk in.
You will then be pointed in the direction of the department within the courthouse that handles family law. Keep in mind that you are not required to have a lawyer to adopt your stepchild.
Most of the time, adopting your stepchild is only a matter of being provided the necessary paperwork that needs to be filled out, which will also list the specific requirements that need to be met within the state where you reside.
We have not vetted these lawyers, so do your due diligence and make sure you choose one that you feel comfortable with.
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.
Here is a story from a woman who posted the following, courtesy of The Well-Trained Mind:
“My parents got married when I was 3.5, and my dad adopted me when I was 5. They chose not to tell me that my dad wasn’t my bio-dad, and it was a huge mistake, in my opinion.
For one thing, everyone else in the family knew. And for another thing, I wasn’t a dummy. When I was 13 and they were celebrating their 10th anniversary, it brought up a lot of questions.
There were pictures in my baby book that wasn’t consistent. There was a picture from Christmas where the stockings said “Jennifer”, “Mommy”, and “Gary”. When I asked, I was told not to ask.
When I was 15, I snuck into my mom’s papers and found my baby book with the name of my bio father’s family crossed out and my dad’s family written over it.
I asked my grandma (mom’s mom) about it when she was visiting and made her promise not to tell my mom. Well, she ran right upstairs and told my mom.
When I saw my mom, it was easy to tell she had been crying. Grandma told me that my dad was my dad, and that person’s name was just a mistake and to never talk about it again.
In order not to hurt my mom anymore, I didn’t ask. But I had tons of questions and didn’t understand. It was so hard.
Finally, the night before I got married, I confronted my mother about it. I was 22 years old! By this time I had assumed that it was some horror story.
I was shocked to find out that my bio-dad just wasn’t interested in parenting. He left my mom when she was pregnant, came around once or twice in my first year, and that was all she ever heard from him.
Dad married mom when I was 3.5. I didn’t even know until 2 weeks ago exactly how old I was when he adopted me because it’s still such a taboo topic.
I wish they had been upfront with me. I don’t feel any less about my mom, knowing she was a single mom. And I respect my dad even more for marrying mom and me, and raising me as his own.”
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 is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina does not run an adoption agency. Her website is strictly information-based, so she is able to provide unbiased, credible information that she hopes will help guide those along their journey.