A stepparent can play almost the exact same role as a biological or legal parent. They will live with their stepchild and provide them with food, clothing and other basic necessities. They can provide emotional support and spend hours of their time every week teaching and interacting with their stepchild.
Pursuing a stepparent adoption is a natural consequence of making a long-term commitment to a stepchild. However, you don’t just file some paperwork with the courts and become a legal parent. You need the permission of multiple different individuals before you can potentially go to court for an adoption.
You cannot adopt your stepchild if your spouse does not agree with that choice. They have a say in the matter, and there could be viable reasons, like survival benefits, that they do not want you to proceed with the adoption. However, if they do approve, then you need to get permission from other parties as well.
Even deadbeat parents who never show up for visitation and who haven’t paid child support in years still have parental rights under North Carolina law. If the state terminated someone’s rights or if the other parent has already died, then their permission isn’t necessary. Otherwise, you will typically need to get them to sign documents voluntarily terminating their parental rights so that you can assume a parental role.
If your stepchild is over the age of 12, then their opinion in the matter is also important. In fact, you will want to discuss the matter with the child even if they aren’t yet 12 years of age.
While the courts may not assign much weight to their preferences at a younger age, you should be considerate of their feelings. They may have their own emotional reasons for wanting to keep their current parental relationships intact. Their opposition to the adoption doesn’t necessarily reflect on their relationship with you but rather on the bond they have or wish they had with their other parent.
Provided that everyone is in agreement about your decision to adopt your stepchild, you can become their legal parent with all of the rights and responsibilities that go along with such a role. Learning more about stepparent adoption can help you decide if it is the logical next step for your family.