The Process of Stepparent Adoption in Oregon
December 15th, 2022
Stepparents often develop close relationships with their stepchildren and form strong emotional bonds. However, they do not have the same legal rights as a biological parent when it comes to matters like custody or making decisions on behalf of the child. Stepparent adoption can offer crucial legal protections for both the parent and child. It can also provide the child with a sense of security and permanency — as well as give them inheritance rights and access to the parent’s benefits.
What is Stepparent Adoption?Being married to the biological parent of a child does not automatically give a stepparent parental rights. Even if you have cared for your stepchild since they were born, you will still need to go through the adoption process to have the authority to make decisions about things like their education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Stepparent adoption keeps the parental rights of the custodial biological parent and safeguards the stepparent’s relationship with the child in the event of divorce, or if the biological parent passes away or becomes incapacitated.
What are the Requirements for Stepparent Adoption in Oregon?Stepparent adoption primarily involves legal filings and there is no agency involved - however if the non-custodial parent is involved in the child’s life and does not consent to the adoption, it is not likely a good option. The non-custodial biological parent must agree to give up their parental rights in order for the stepparent to adopt the child. However, consent is usually not needed if the biological parent has abandoned the child for a period of 12 months or longer. If the biological parent consents to the adoption, there are usually no issues with moving the process forward. However, if the biological parent contests the stepparent adoption and refuses to terminate their parental rights, the case can become more difficult. Most likely there will be a home study conducted by a social worker unless this requirement is waived by the Department of Human Services. The stepparent will also be subject to a nationwide background check to identify any criminal history or prior involvement with child protective services. For this reason it is very important for any such criminal history or prior involvement with child protective services - in any state - be disclosed to the attorney during your initial meeting. A family can spend a lot of time and money attempting an adoption only to learn that the stepparent is not eligible to adopt based on criminal or child protective services history and so your attorney needs to know this very early on in the process.
Does a Child Need to Agree to Stepparent Adoption in Oregon?Since a biological parent would no longer have legal standing when it comes to their child, stepparent adoptions have a significant impact on all parties involved. Depending upon the age of the child, you might need to obtain their consent for the adoption. Since their biological parent will no longer play a legal role in their life, Oregon law requires that a stepchild age 14 or older agree to a stepparent adoption in writing. It's best to have an open discussion with your stepchild about the adoption, no matter how old they are. Especially if they are older, you should talk with the child about the pros and cons of stepparent adoption and what it would mean for your family. If an older child does not agree to the adoption, it’s important to be aware that you can adopt them at any point in the future if they change their minds. Oregon law also allows for adult adoptions for individuals over the age of 18.
What is the Legal Process for Stepparent Adoption?Stepparent adoption in Oregon is subject to the same laws as other types of adoptions, but it is often easier and faster. However, there is still a standard process that must be followed. If you and your stepchild agree that you’d like to move forward with the adoption, the following steps must be taken:
- Obtain consent — Both biological parents and a stepchild over 14 must consent to the adoption.
- File a petition with the court — If all parties agree, a petition must be submitted to the court in the county where the child lives.
- Have an evaluation conducted — Although home studies may be waived in stepparent adoptions, a nationwide criminal history and Child Protective Service check must be made on the prospective adopting stepparent and any other adults who are residing in the house.
- Provide confirmation of consent — Confirmation of consent provides proof to the court that the proper paperwork was served on the biological parent.
- Attend any court hearings — A court hearing may be scheduled, at which time both the custodial parent and stepparent can present their case to the judge as to why stepparent adoption is in the child’s best interests.
- Wait 90 days — Under Oregon law, there may be a 90-day waiting period before an adoption can be finalized unless the Department of Human Services waives the waiting period.
- Finalize the adoption — Once the adoption process has been finalized, the adoption certificate is given to the adoptive parents who can use it to amend the child’s birth certificate and include the adoptive stepparent.
Contact an Experienced Oregon Stepparent Adoption AttorneyIf you’re considering adopting your stepchild, it’s essential to have a skillful attorney to help you navigate the legal process. Based in Salem, Litowich Law provides compassionate representation to prospective adoptive stepparents throughout Oregon. We welcome you to contact us for a consultation.