If you and your spouse have been wondering about whether to pursue stepparent adoption, make sure you understand the requirements before you get started on the process. In North Carolina, there are specific guidelines on who can file a stepparent adoption.

Specifically, North Carolina law requires:

Legal and physical custody and 6-months primary residence

The parent of the child (the stepparent’s spouse) must have legal and physical custody of the child and the child must have resided primarily with this parent and with the stepparent for the six months prior to filing the adoption petition.

In the case of a parent (the stepparent’s spouse) who has legal and physical custody and is either deceased or incapacitated, stepparent adoption may still occur. In this case, the six-month primary residence requirement applies only to the child residing primarily with the stepparent and not the spouse who is either deceased or incapacitated.

You can still petition if you have unique circumstances

If you do not meet these above requirements, the statute does allow for a stepparent to file a petition for cause. Petitioning for cause may include any number of scenarios. 

Consent must be granted

In order to complete the stepparent adoption, the court must receive:

  • Consent of the stepparent’s spouse (the parent of the child) along with certain acknowledgements.
  • Consent from the noncustodial parent is required with certain acknowledgements. If the noncustodial parent’s parental rights have been terminated, then that relationship has already been legally terminated.
  • Consent of the child, if age 12 or older.

Stepparent adoption does not affect certain grandparent rights

A stepparent adoption in North Carolina does not affect grandparent visitation rights already in effect or any future petition that may be pursued by biological grandparents.

Know the requirements, understand the process

Stepparent adoption can proceed rather smoothly or – like any legal proceeding – hit a few bumps in the road. There are many procedures in place to protect both the parent’s rights and the child’s best interests. Take care to understand and meet the legal requirements to insure an effective and efficient legal proceeding.