Understanding Legal Stepparent Adoption in Florida

Understanding Legal Stepparent Adoption in Florida

Step-adoption in accordance with Florida law gives a person who married into an existing family full and equal parental rights and responsibilities over his or her stepchild. This adoption is finalized and granted through a court order called a Final Judgment of Step Parent Adoption. After this process has been completed, it will be as if the child were born to the natural parent and step-parent. The name of the child will also be changed on the birth certificate to reflect the names of both parents. 

This is a way to formalize and legalize parental relationships that are already in place. After all, stepparents function in many ways like a parent of the child. This just makes it legally valid and binding under Chapter 63 of the Florida statutes. 

The steps involved in the process

The first step in the step parent adoption process is to determine the eligibility of the stepparent to adopt. A petition must be filed that includes the following information:

  • The date and place of birth of the child
  • The name that should be given to the child should it be changed
  • The statement of how long the stepparent has lived with the child
  • The reasons why they stepparent wants to adopt the child.

The process is initiated once the petition has been filed, at which point the absent parent has a chance to oppose the adoption. If no opposition takes place, the court will finalize the adoption.

Why do I have to adopt?

Marriage alone does not give a person parental rights over a child. Legally, you are unable to consider the child yours until you have officially completed the stepparent adoption process. 

Whose consent would I need to adopt?

A stepparent does not have an independent right to adopt. In many cases, the absent parent must consent to the adoption before their rights are terminated. There are, however, exemptions made in cases where that person cannot be found or has abandoned the child. 

No matter the case, however, you will still need the consent and support of your spouse. 

What is considered child abandonment in the State of Florida?

When a legal parent of the child makes little or no provision for the child’s support or makes little or no effort to communicate with the child despite being able to, this is known as child abandonment. Essentially, abandonment is established when a parent acts in a way that demonstrates an intent to reject parental responsibilities. 

Even if the parent in question decides to attempt communication and some support, a judge can rule that such efforts are only marginal. This means that these efforts are not meant to evince a settled purpose to assume all parental duties. In that case, a judge may still regard such a child as legally abandoned.

How long does the process take?

If all parties are available and the absent parent consents to the adoption, the process may take one to two months. It may take longer depending on extenuating circumstances. 

How long does a person have to be absent before they are considered to have abandoned their child?

There is no set time limit before a child is considered abandoned. The judge in the adoption case will investigate the facts and try to make a judgment based on the bigger picture of the situation. 

Final thoughts

The creation and legalization of new families is always a wonderful thing. While it can be a legal challenge at times, it is a worthwhile endeavor, as it can be a wonderful step forward for any new parent and their child. After all, families are sometimes found and created in unconventional ways. 

If you’re looking for a Florida-based family lawyer to help you formalize your family, give us at Parra Harris Law a call. We understand that family matters, and we take family law very seriously.

Paola Parra Harris