A second-parent adoption allows a person, a “second parent,” to adopt a child without the “first parent” losing any parental rights. In some states, this process can be done whether they are married to the other parent or not.
Although North Carolina has allowed for same-sex marriage since 2014, North Carolina does not yet allow second parent adoptions. North Carolina does not permit two unmarried people to adopt a child together.
What this means, practically, is that a same-sex couple must be married for the “second parent” to adopt the biological child of their spouse as a stepparent.
Adopting Your Spouse’s Child
As a same-sex couple, if your spouse has a child, your marriage does not automatically grant you parental rights to your spouse’s child. That is true even if your spouse gives birth to that child.
Adoption as a stepparent is the best option for couples where one spouse is a parent and they want the other spouse to have the same parental rights to the child. Creating a legal relationship establishes enforceable parental rights for the stepparent, and it also protects the child’s right to a relationship with the stepparent in the event of a divorce or the death of the other biological parent.
When a child has not been adopted by a stepparent, the stepparent has only very limited legal authority, and you may run into some of the following issues:
- You may not have custody or visitation rights in the event of a divorce
- Your child has no protection from being taken away if the biological parent dies or is unable to perform their parental duties
North Carolina law requires that a couple be married for at least six months prior to the adoption before you can adopt your stepchild. If you lived together prior to getting married, that time will not count towards this requirement. There are exceptions to this rule.
After filing the petition, there are steps designed to ensure that the adoption is in the best interest of the child. These include the following:
- Criminal Background Check
- If the child is age 12 or older, the child must consent to the adoption
- Home Visits or Post-Placement Visits
- Report to the Court
The adoption process is complex and can vary depending on your situation. It’s critical to have an experienced adoption attorney on your side to help you navigate the process.
Experience on Your Side
Bobby Mills has over 30 years’ experience in adoptions in North Carolina and can help you with your adoption. adoption. If you are a member of a non-traditional family and wish to adopt your partner’s child or have your partner adopt your child, please call us today at 919-306-2899 to set up a consultation.