In Michigan, if certain requirements are met, the answer is yes. If these conditions are met, the custodial parent and the step-parent can file for a step-parent adoption. This process has a number of technical elements. It is best to hire an attorney who has experience in this area of the law.
These requirements are as follows:
- The step-parent must be engaged to marry or must be married to the custodial parent.
- The non-custodial parent must have failed to provide anything for the child for at least two years.
- The non-custodial parent must have failed to have contact with the child for at least two years.
- The custodial parent must agree and sign the petition.
The process starts with a petition to adopt which is signed by both the custodial parent and the stepparent.
The case has two primary parts. Part one, is the requirement to terminate the non-custodial parent’s parental rights. Often this involves tracking down the noncustodial parent who has been out of the picture for more than two years. Sometimes the noncustodial parent cannot be found and a legally complicated process is required to fulfill your obligation to provide notice to the absent non-custodial parent. Then there is a hearing that is scheduled and testimony must be presented supporting the four requirements listed above in order to proceed with the adoption.
A step-parent can improve their chances to adopt the step-child by actually marrying the custodial parent rather than relying just on an engagement. The custodial parent can help their case by obtaining documentation from the Court about the non-custodial parent’s failure to pay child support. Finally, every effort should be made to find documentation to prove the lack of contact between the child and the non-custodial parent.
When Part One ends with the termination of parental rights of the non-custodial parent, Part Two begins and leads to the final adoption hearing. During this part of the case, there will be an evaluation of the:
- step-parent and custodial parent’s relationship
- step-parent’s character
- home environment of the child
During this stage, the step-parent and custodial parent will be asked to obtain character references. Careful selection of the writers of the references is a big help.
If the custodial parent and parent pass the evaluation, then a final adoption hearing is scheduled by the Court. Every one of my step-parent adoption cases at this step in the process has been a very positive and gratifying emotional experience. The step-parent and the custodial parent are encouraged to bring the child. The Judges and Court personnel both enjoy the event.
It is hard to predict the amount of time from the filing of the petition to the final adoption hearing. In my experience, it has ranged from six months to a year. The biggest variable is whether or not the noncustodial parent is difficult to locate. The effect of a completed adoption is total. The former stepparent upon completion is the second custodial parent with all rights and obligations of any parent who is the biological parent. If you meet the requirements and live in Northern Michigan, please contact me.
Call Vincent J Maloney now, for a free 30 minute consultation and get answers to your questions at 231.947.3331.