Ready to make your spouse’s child officially your child too? Stepparent adoptions in Minnesota are specifically provided for under the state’s adoption rules. This makes stepparent adoption fairly
uncomplicated (and less costly than other types of adoptions), at least in most situations.
Before you start the actual adoption process, It’s best to begin with getting the consent of the child’s other parent (as in, not your spouse) to the adoption. If that parent gives written consent to the adoption, you can proceed with court forms for an uncontested adoption. There are specifics on how and what to sign so you will want to talk to your lawyer first. If not, you may still be able to adopt the child if you can demonstrate that the other parent abandoned the child. Abandonment, in this context, usually involves a lack of contact or child support over the past six months. Note that if the other parent’s parental rights have already been terminated by an earlier court order, you do not need that parent’s consent.
Additionally, if the child is over 14, you will need the child’s consent too.
As a side issue, the adoption process will be more complicated if the child you are adopting is Indian. In that case, certain federal law will apply, and you will need to talk to a lawyer.
Moving on (finally!) to the actual adoption procedure, a stepparent adoption begins with filing an adoption petition. A blank petition for adoption is available on the Minnesota Courts website. You must file the petition in the county where YOU live. In order to be able to file the petition, you must have lived in Minnesota for the past 1 year, although in certain circumstances, when it is in the best interest of the child, the court can reduce this period to 30 days.
After you file the petition, the court may order what is called a “post-placement assessment.” This involves a social services agency evaluating the child’s home and living conditions, in order to report on whether the adoption would meet the needs of the child. Some courts will waive this assessment and only require you to submit answers to a questionnaire about your past relationships and health history. The court is also required to conduct a background check on all adults age 13 or over that will be living in the home with the child.
Assuming the adoption is uncontested and does not involve an Indian child, you can find the forms you need to complete the adoption process on the Minnesota Courts website. Now that you’ve got the basics of adopting your stepchild down, you can move on to your latest parenting concerns, like that request for a dog…
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Rosengren Kohlmeyer, Law Office