Falling in love with someone who has a child from a previous relationship can be a wonderful experience. You can basically become a parent and develop a deep and meaningful relationship with the child in question, often in less time than pregnancy takes.
However, as a stepparent, you have very few rights. If your spouse were to suddenly die, you might lose touch with the children because they go to their other parent. If you and your spouse were to divorce, you would have a real uphill battle in the North Dakota family courts seeking custody or visitation rights.
A stepparent adoption helps protect your stepchild if anything happens to your spouse and protect your relationship with them if anything happens to your marriage. Although you, your spouse and stepchild may all enthusiastically support the idea of adoption, the other parent of your stepchild may not. Do you need their permission to move forward with a legal adoption?
Both parents usually need to approve an adoption
In North Dakota, even a parent who does not see their children at all still has legal rights. If you would like to adopt your stepchild, that change would affect the legal rights of the other biological parent, which means they must approve it before it can go to court.
If the state already terminated their parental rights due to abuse or neglect, then you do not need to reach out to them regarding the adoption. However, if they are still alive, then you will likely need their permission.
If they currently do not make use of their visitation rights and provide little in the way of financial support, approving the adoption will have very few practical consequences for that other parent. They may find the end of their obligation to pay child support to be a compelling incentive to sign away their rights.
What happens once you have permission?
When everyone in the family and directly affected by this decision has discussed the matter and approved it, you will still need to go through the North Dakota family courts to become a legal parent. There are certain steps the family will need to complete that exist to ensure the protection of children undergoing adoption.
Knowing what steps you must complete as a stepparent hoping to adopt your stepchild can help you solidify your family relationships in the North Dakota family courts.