Stepparents generally have few or no legal rights or responsibilities when it comes to their stepchildren. In some cases where a stepparent is the only mother or father the child has known, however, or where the family wishes to make the bond of family “official,” adoption of the child by the stepparent may be possible. Here are five things to know about stepparent adoption in North Carolina:
1. A stepparent who adopts agrees to become the legal parent of the spouse’s child, and to assume all the rights and responsibilities that the child’s biological parent would have. Adoption is for life, even if the adoptive parent and biological parent divorce.
2. Consent must be given by: (1) the parent who is the stepparent’s spouse; (2) the parent who is not the stepparent’s spouse (if necessary); (3) a guardian of the minor child; and (4) the minor child if 12 or older.
3. In order to file the petition for stepparent adoption, the child needs to have lived primarily with the stepparent for at least 6 months immediately before filing.
4. The stepparent who adopts must be legally married to the parent who has legal and physical custody of the child.
5. The parties in a stepparent adoption may agree to release past due child support payments and attach the agreement to the adoption petition. Otherwise, even a parent who has consented to adoption by a stepparent, continues to owe any past-due child support.