Benefits of Stepparent Adoption
June 21st, 2023
Stepparents love their stepchildren just as they do their biological children. But even if they are married to the child’s biological parent, they do not have the same legal rights, obligations, and responsibilities unless the child is legally adopted by them. There can be many emotional benefits and legal advantages to adopting a stepchild in Oregon — whether they are a minor or an adult.
Benefits of Adopting a Stepchild Under 18One of the most important reasons to adopt a stepchild under 18 is to provide them with a sense of security and permanence. Unless a stepchild is adopted, a stepparent does not have the same authority and rights of a biological parent. This can be an issue when it comes to picking the child up from school, obtaining medical care for the child, or making crucial decisions if the biological parent cannot be reached. Adoption also gives the stepparent the legal right to custody if the biological parent passes away or becomes incapacitated and cannot care for the child. Otherwise, the court could give custody to another relative that the child does not know — or the child’s other biological parent, even if they were absent from their lives. Similarly, in the event of divorce, a stepparent who had legally adopted their stepchild would be entitled to custody and visitation rights, and have the same child support obligations as a biological parent would. Additionally, stepparent adoption can provide certain administrative benefits, such as those involving health insurance, social security, and Veterans Administration benefits. Most health insurance policies and government benefits will not include coverage for stepchildren. However, when the relationship is legalized through adoption, a stepchild can be guaranteed that they will be included in the coverage.
Legal Advantages of Adult Stepparent AdoptionPerhaps your stepchild’s biological parent refused to cooperate with the stepparent adoption and you did not legalize your relationship with your stepchild when they were a minor. Or, you may have married the child’s biological parent when the child was already past the age of 18. If the child is older or over the age of 18, you can still pursue adoption. In fact, there are a number of advantages that come with adult stepparent adoption for both the stepparent and the stepchild. Adult children adopted by stepparents may receive the following benefits:
- Formalizing the parent-child relationship — If the stepchild and stepparent have developed a strong emotional bond, adoption can formalize the relationship and make it legally official.
- Ensuring care for an adult stepchild with special needs — Adopting an adult stepchild with special needs can help ensure they have the financial and legal security they need. Adult stepparent adoption can allow someone other than the child’s biological parent, such as a stepparent, to be the child’s caretaker and make essential medical and life decisions on their behalf.
- Establishing Inheritance rights — If one of the parties passes away without a valid will, adoption allows the other to have inheritance rights. It also gives the other party legal standing to contest the will if necessary.
The Stepparent Adoption Process in OregonGenerally, the process for stepparent adoption requires completing and filing legal paperwork. Unlike some other types of adoptions in Oregon, there is no agency involvement even if the stepchild is a minor. However, it is vital to understand that when a stepchild is adopted, the non-custodial biological parent would have to give up their legal parental rights — and they must be notified of the proceedings. If the biological parent does not consent to the adoption of a minor child, the process can become much more complex. Generally, consent is not needed if the biological parent abandoned the child for 12 months or more. In cases involving the adoption of minor stepchildren, a home study is usually conducted by a social worker unless the Department of Human Services waives this requirement. A stepparent would also be required to undergo a nationwide background check to determine whether they have any criminal record or prior involvement with child protective services. Once the petition for adoption has been filed with the court, any home studies have been conducted, and the biological parent has consented, the parties must attend any court hearings that are scheduled. There is then a 90-day waiting period under Oregon law before the adoption can be finalized, unless this requirement is waived by the Department of Human Services. When the adoption process is completed, the adoption certificate will be given to the adoptive parents who can use it to amend the birth certificate to include the stepparent. When the stepchild is 18 or older, the consent of the child’s biological parent is not needed. With adult stepparent adoption, the only consent required by law is that of the adult stepchild. Although a court may still review the case to confirm the adoption is being carried out for legitimate reasons, this is rarely done. When the adult adoption process is finalized, Oregon Vital Records will issue a new birth certificate that reflects the adoptive stepparent as the adult adoptee’s parent and include their new last name. As with an adoption involving a minor, stepparent adoption terminates the legal ties the adult adoptee had with their biological parent — this includes foregoing inheritance rights and any other legal rights.
Contact an Experienced Oregon Adoption AttorneyIf you’re considering adopting your minor stepchild or adult stepparent adoption, it’s critical to have a knowledgeable attorney to guide you through the legal process. Based in Salem, Litowich Law provides skillful representation to prospective adoptive stepparents throughout Oregon. We welcome you to contact us for a consultation.