Being a stepparent can be wondrous and challenging by turns, and often adopting your step-child can seem like a step in the right direction. However, there can be circumstances where taking that step can do more harm than good, so it's important that you weigh all the facts before you move forward. Once you're fully aware of both the benefits and potential drawbacks of proceeding with the adoption, you can make a well-informed decision as to whether it's right for your family.
Consider the Other Parent
Adopting your stepchild involves more than just your feelings on the matter. If there is a relationship with both their parents, you may irreparably damage that, especially if the other parent is involved in even the slightest degree. You'll need to show a judge that severing ties with them is in the best interests of your stepchild.
Even an absentee parent has rights, so you'll need to learn just what has to be done in order to cut those ties. Every situation is different, so find out what your state law has to say on the matter. In addition, find out how your stepchild feels about their other biological parent and whether or not they have an interest in developing a relationship with them in the future.
Consider the Child
Creating a tighter family bond through a shared surname can have a profound impact on the mental well-being of a child. Many stepchildren maintain an air of contention with their stepparent, and adopting them can help to start bridging the gap between you. This is especially true if you've been a stable part of their life from an early age, or if their other biological parent has been out of contact for a long period of time.
On the other hand, older children may have come to view their surname as a primary part of their identity. The idea of changing it can bring up a number of unresolved emotional issues, and may make the relationship between you even more contentious. They may have become attached to the idea of their parent, rather than the reality, and asking or forcing them to surrender that can cause a major conflict.
Remember that the court will always rule in the best interests of a child when it comes to stepparent adoption. If you are able to terminate the parental rights of an absent mother or father you'll have the chance to proceed, but before you start down this road you'd better be sure it's what's best for you, your spouse and your stepchild.
If you need a family law attorney for this process, contact Ritter & LeClere APC Attorneys At Law.