Overview of step-parent adoption in Ohio
Many step-parents have filled the role of mom or dad to step-children for years. By proceeding with a step-parent adoption, the law provides legal recognition to a relationship that already exists. But when is a step parent adoption appropriate? This guide provides some pointers.
When is a biological parent's consent not required?
Normally, a biological parent must consent to the adoption of his or her child. But there are some exceptions to the consent requirement. Here are two that are commonly used: (1) If a biological parent has failed, without justifiable cause, to have more than a minimal amount of contact / communication with the child for over one year before the adoption petition is filed, that biological parent's consent is not required for the adoption to proceed; (2) If a biological parent has failed, without justifiable cause, to provide for the maintenance and support of the child as required by law or judicial decree during the one year before the petition was filed, the biological parent's consent is not required.
What does "without justifiable cause" mean?
In both situations discussed above (when a biological parent's consent is not required), the biological parent's failure must be "without justifiable cause." One of the issues the Judge examines is whether the biological parent was prevented by the custodial parent from visiting with the child, or whether some valid reason exists for the failure to help the child with living expenses, child support, etc. If the Judge is not convinced that the biological parent's failure was without justifiable cause, the Judge will dismiss the adoption petition.
What is the timing of a step-parent petitioning to adopt his or her step-child?
In Ohio, a step-parent must have been married to the child's biological parent for at least 6 months, and some counties require marriage for one year before granting an adoption petition. The court must determine that the consent of the other biological parent (other than the one married to the step-parent) is not required. (See discussion regarding when a biological parent's consent is not required).
Best interest of child
After determining that all necessary consents have been provided or are not required, the Court must determine whether the adoption is in the step-child's best interest. The Ohio Revised Code lists factors for the Court to consider in making the best interest determination, but generally, the Court is looking at the child's current living arrangements, the bonding between the child and the step-parent, and the child's wishes (if the child is old enough for this to be a factor). If the child is 12 or older, the child's consent to the proposed step-parent adoption is required.
If you are interested in learning more about the adoption process, please contact me today.