If you are a step-parent and are thinking about adopting your stepchild, there are a few things to understand before you do this. The following are three of them.
The stepchild's last name
This may seem inconsequential, at least to you, but to a stepchild it may not be. Depending upon their age, they will not only have a new last name but will also be changing their signature. Friends at school and in the neighborhood will now have to adjust to a new last name as well. This can be difficult for a child, so you need to sit down with your stepchildren and discuss this with them. It is important that they understand how the adoption will affect them. Of course, if your child is young enough, they may never know their last name was changed until they are older.
The ramifications of a future divorce
No one wants to talk about a divorce, because you never plan on having one, but you do need to understand the consequences of an adoption if there were to be a divorce in the future. As a stepfather, after an adoption, your stepchildren will be your responsibility. If you go through a divorce, and one or more of your stepchildren are still minors, you will likely be ordered to pay child support. Your spouse will also need to understand that as the legal father, you will likely be entitled to visitation rights. All of the rights that go along with being a natural father are bestowed upon the stepfather after an adoption.
The notification of the biological father
With certain rare exceptions, the biological father will need to be notified. You need to take the time to think about the consequences. You will not be able to tell the courts that the man's whereabouts are simply not known. An effort must be made to find him, and when he is found, you will need to find out whether he wants to be a part of his child's life. Sometimes things are better left alone, but an attorney can be quite helpful in speaking to the biological father. Often, when they hear they will no longer be responsible for child support, they will be willing to give up their parental rights.
There are a lot of good reasons to adopt your stepchildren, but you need to consider the consequences of doing so. Once you are ready to take the big step with the adoption process, you need to contact a family attorney such as Haslam & Thorne, LLP. Any legal questions you may have can be answered at the time of your initial consultation.