Adopting a stepchild is one of the most fulfilling and important decisions one can make. Often, a stepparent plays a primary role in raising a child in place of one of the biological parents. Under certain circumstances, Ohio law provides for the stepparent to adopt the child. I am attorney Dirken D. Winkler and I represent stepparents seeking to adopt a child. I understand how to navigate through the many legal challenges faced when adopting a stepchild. Providing a permanent and legal parent–child relationship is the primary goal of a stepparent adoption proceeding.
A stepparent adoption is initiated when the stepparent files a petition for adoption with the Probate Court where the child resides. The child’s biological parent (noncustodial parent) must be notified of the petition and must be provided an opportunity to object to the adoption. If the noncustodial biological parent fails to file timely objections with the Probate Court, then the biological parent’s consent will not be necessary.
In order for the stepparent adoption to proceed, Ohio law requires that both biological parents consent to the adoption. However, there are a number of exceptions. For instance, the consent of the noncustodial biological parent is not required when the stepparent (the party that has filed the petition) proves by “clear and convincing evidence” that the noncustodial biological parent has failed, without justification, to 1) communicate with the child, OR 2) financially support the child, during the twelve months immediately preceding the date the adoption petition was filed.
Should the noncustodial biological parent timely file objections to the petition, the Probate Court will then schedule a “Consent hearing” to determine whether the noncustodial biological parent’s consent is necessary. Should the noncustodial biological parent consent, or fails to object, the Court will then schedule a final “Best Interests hearing” to either approve or deny the petition. Depending on the particular circumstances, a stepparent adoption may have up to two hearings.
When the Court approves a stepparent adoption, the adopting parent (the stepparent) thereafter assumes all legal rights and responsibilities to support and care for the adopted child. Furthermore, the adopted child is vested with all rights as if he or she were the stepparent’s natural child, including rights to the stepparent’s estate and assets upon death, and, in cases of divorce, the adopting parent could be ordered to financially support the adopted child.
As with all matters dealing with legal custody of a child, the Court must find that the stepparent adoption would be in the child’s best interest. I have represented both the adopting stepparent and the noncustodial biological parent (not in the same proceeding) and am very well versed in addressing the factual and legal issues germane to an Ohio stepparent adoption. If you are attempting to adopt a step child or have been served notice of a petition to adopt your child, contact Winkler Legal Services, LLC for a free initial telephone consultation to discuss your matter more fully. In most circumstances, Winkler Legal Services, LLC offers an affordable flat fee arrangement to help you better weather the legal costs associated with an Ohio stepparent adoption.
Unfortunately, the costs of a stepparent adoption are not tax deductible. IRS Publication 968.
When dealing with a stepparent adoption, it is important to understand and protect your rights. Attorney, Dirken D. Winkler has significant experience dealing with stepparent adoptions in Franklin and surrounding counties.
Columbus and Central Ohio Stepparent Adoption Attorney