Megan E. Spidell
The Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Stepparent Adoption in NC
Stepparent adoption is a special type of adoption that allows stepparents to become legal parents to their stepchildren. While adoption is exciting, understanding the process is important, as it can be lengthy and tricky. To adopt your stepchild, you must first understand the laws and requirements surrounding stepparent adoption in North Carolina. So, here are the top five things you need to know about the stepparent adoption process.
#1: You Must Meet Certain Legal Requirements
Can a stepparent adopt their stepchild in NC? The short answer is maybe. However, you must meet specific legal requirements to be able to petition for stepparent adoption in North Carolina.
● You must be 18 or older.
● You must be a resident of North Carolina.
● You must be married to one of the child's biological parents.
● If the child is 12 years old or older, the child must consent.
● You must live with both your spouse and the child.
● The parent who is your spouse has legal and physical custody of the child.
● You have lived with the child and your spouse for at least six (6) months.
● The other biological parent must consent, or have their rights terminated by the court.
#2: Courts Often Require a Home Study for NC Stepparent Adoption
If you've only been married to the biological parent for two years or less, you must complete a home study before NC courts grant your petition to adopt your stepchild. The home study will help determine if the adoption is in the child’s best interests. The home study is performed by independent agencies, not by the court.
Once your home study is complete, the report is provided to the adoption clerk, who will then make the determination in your case. On average, the wait time for a home study in NC is around two to four months.
#3: NC Stepparent Adoption Requires the Consent of the Non-custodial Biological Parent
For a stepparent adoption in NC, the consent of the non-custodial biological parent is required. The consent must be in writing and filed with the court. In order to move forward with adoption without consent, you will have to terminate the parental rights of the other parent first.
If you want to adopt your spouse’s child but their other parent has not consented, talk to an experienced North Carolina family law attorney about what you can do next.
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#4: The Adoption Process Can Take Several Months and Be Costly
How long does it take to adopt a stepchild? In North Carolina, you must have been married to your spouse for at least six months before you can file a petition to adopt their child(ren) and been residing together as a family. After the petition is filed, the process can take anywhere from 90 days to six months — or even longer if a home study is required.
What does stepparent adoption cost? It varies widely based on where you live, how many parties are involved, and what complications occur. In North Carolina, the average cost is between $2,000 and $3,000.
#5: Stepparent Adoption Will Impact Child Support Payments
When a stepparent adopts a child, the other biological parent's child support obligation ends. However, the custodial parent must still receive any back child support or arrearages owed to them. Adoption also terminates the child’s right to inherit from his or her biological parent.
This is one of many reasons to consult with an attorney before you file a stepparent adoption form or any other legal paperwork. Especially when there are any paternity issues, if one or both parents have not given consent for adoption or have other concerns, a lawyer’s expertise is crucial.
You Can Trust Spidell Family Law to Guide You Through Stepparent Adoption in NC
The stepparent adoption process can be complicated and time-consuming, but it is also rewarding for families. Knowing what to expect from the start can help you navigate the process and ensure your adoption is successful. Contact a local family law attorney at Spidell Family Law for assistance if you have questions about stepparent adoption in North Carolina.
If you're looking for a stepparent adoption lawyer, Spidell Family Law can help!
Call TODAY to take the first step on your adoption journey!