Wyoming 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 Wyoming?
To adopt a stepchild in the state of Wyoming, both biological parents must give their permission. If the absent parent has abandoned the child for an extended period of time, this 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 Wyoming
You want to adopt your stepchild, but how?
Adopting a stepchild in the state of Wyoming 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 of time, this 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 of time 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 Wyoming
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 Wyoming 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 really 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 pay 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 said to 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 Wyoming?
According to Wyoming’s Citation: Ann. Stat. § 1-22-104, the court may require the stepparent adoption petitioners for adoption to conduct a home study.
Further mentioned in Wyoming’s Citation: Ann. Stat. § 1-22-104; Code of Rules § 049-040-001, the state of Wyoming, an affidavit from each stepparent adoption petitioner shall be attached to the petition setting forth:
- Any previous or current diagnosed psychiatric disorders of the petitioner
- All felony convictions of the petitioner within the preceding 10 years
- All misdemeanor convictions of the petitioner within the preceding 5 years
- The current parole or probation status of the petitioner, if any
Should the courts decide that a home study will be required, the following information will be required from each petitioner:
- Names, addresses, age, sex, race, and nationality; educational, job, and employment records; physical description; marriage and divorce verification; family members and those residing in the residence; financial statement of assets, obligations, and income
- Names and addresses of five references who have known the applicant for a minimum of 2 years
- A general medical examination, including fertility/infertility testing, is conducted within a year.
- Each applicant’s autobiography
- A statement describing the applicant’s purpose for adopting and the sorts of children he or she would consider adopting.
Home studies are conducted in almost all adoptions. Stepparents already living with their stepchildren for quite some time may request the home study be waived.
If the courts decide that your stepparent adoption petition in Wyoming requires you to participate in an adoption home study, there are things you can do to prepare.
- Thoroughly clean your home similar to what some refer to as spring cleaning
- Inspect the outside of your home to ensure there are no potential safety hazards for a child
- Make sure you have quick access to common documents that will be requested, such as medical records and personal references
Does the Stepchild Have to Consent to an Adoption in Wyoming?
A child who is fourteen (14) years and older must provide signed consent to their own adoption in Wyoming. 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 Wyoming?
Under citation code Ann. Stat. § 1-22-109, a father’s consent to a stepparent adoption petition in the state of Wyoming involves the following.
The consent to adoption shall be signed by:
- Both parents, if living
- The surviving parent
- The mother alone if she does not know the name of the putative father, in which case she shall sign and file an affidavit so stating, and the court shall determine whether the putative father has registered and if so, shall require notice to be given to the putative father
The adoption of a stepchild may be ordered without the written consent of a parent or the putative father if the court finds that the nonconsenting parent or putative father is unknown and that the putative father has not registered, and the affidavit required by § 1‑22‑109(a)(iv) has been filed with the petition to adopt or if the court finds that the putative father or the nonconsenting parent or parents have:
- Been given notice of the hearing and have failed to answer or appear at the hearing
- Been judicially deprived of parental rights of the child for any reason
- Willfully abandoned or deserted the child
- Willfully failed to contribute to the support of the child for a period of 1 year immediately prior to the filing of the petition to adopt and has failed to bring the support obligation current within 60 days after service of the petition to adopt
- Willfully permitted the child to be maintained in or by a public or private institution or by the Department of Family Services for a period of 1 year immediately prior to the filing of the petition without substantially contributing to the support of the child
- Failed, within 30 days after receiving notice of the pending birth or birth of the child, to advise or notify the agency that gave the putative father the notice of his interest in or responsibility for the child or his declaration of paternity
- Been adjudged by a court to be guilty of cruelty, abuse, neglect, or mistreatment of the child
- Caused the conception of the child born out of wedlock as a result of sexual assault or incest for which he has been convicted
- Willfully failed to pay a total dollar amount of at least 70 percent of the court-ordered support for a period of 2 years or more and has failed to bring the support obligation 100 percent current within 60 days after service of the petition to adopt
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.