When a step-parent wants to adopt a child in Mississippi, there are certain legal steps that must be taken. At the Hancock Law Firm, our diligent Jackson adoption lawyers have extensive experience representing step-parents throughout the Madison, Rankin and Hinds County Area who wish to adopt. You can feel confident that we will be there to answer your questions and address your concerns at every step of the way. Our family law attorneys understand that deciding to adopt your stepchild may be one of the most important and rewarding steps that you take, and we will try to make the process as seamless as possible for you.Pursuing a Step-Parent Adoption
Adoption is a process through which a legal parent-child status is created between people who do not have a biological relationship. Once the adoption is finalized, the adoptive step-parent and the child have the same rights and obligations with respect to each other that biological parents and children have.
Whether you are a stepmother or a stepfather, you may adopt your spouse’s child as long as your spouse and you are legally married. You may file the adoption documents with the court of the county in which you live. This will go relatively smoothly if the step-parent adoption is uncontested. Some common situations in which an adoption might be uncontested include when the birth parent is deceased, the birth parent consents to the adoption, or the birth parent’s parental rights have been previously terminated by a court for some other reason.
A birth parent may choose to voluntarily give up their parental rights for various reasons, including recognizing the fact that the step-parent adoption may be in the best interest of the child or wanting to get off the hook for child support and other parental responsibilities.
The step-parent adoption process, however, may quickly become difficult if you do not have consent from the other birth parent. A birth parent may refuse to consent to a step-parent adoption because they are hostile and do not approve of the idea. In other cases, you may not be able to locate the birth parent. If this is the case, you will need to show the court that you made a good-faith effort to locate the absent parent through a physical search for them and, when that did not work, through “service by publication.” This involves seeking out the absent parent in the local newspaper of their last known address.
In some cases, the court may forcibly terminate a birth parent’s rights. This is relatively rare and will only take place if it can be proved that an absent parent abandoned the child, the parent is unfit, or there has been a substantial erosion of the parent-child relationship. Abandonment takes place when the absent parent has not communicated with the child or provided any financial support for a significant period of time. A parent is unfit if they are abusive, neglectful, addicted to alcohol or drugs, incarcerated, or dealing with a serious mental problem that interferes with the ability to parent safely and effectively.
As a practical matter, when an adoption is approved, your adopted stepchild may take your last name and update their birth certificate. Furthermore, your stepchild will inherit from you just as a biological child would.Enlist an Adoption Lawyer in Jackson or Beyond
If you are considering adopting a stepchild, it is important to seek the help of a skilled child custody attorney. At the Hancock Law Firm, we can facilitate a step-parent adoption by using our experience in this area of the law. We will make sure that you understand your legal rights and options throughout the entire adoption process. Our Jackson adoption attorneys represent people in communities such as Madison, Ridgeland, Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Flora, Yazoo City, Carthage, and Vicksburg. To set up an appointment, call us at 601-853-2223 or contact us online.