You may never have imagined yourself adopting a child. Maybe you assumed you would have biological children, or you simply never saw in yourself the potential for being a parent. Then you met someone who had a child, and as your love for the parent grew, so did your love for the child.
Now that you are in a marriage, you have given thoughtful consideration to the option of adopting your stepchild. This is a common form of adoption and relatively easy if you can overcome the roadblock of obtaining the consent of the child’s other parent.
Seeking consent of the biological parent
If you hope to adopt your stepchild, you must first acquire the written consent of the child’s non-custodial parent. In some cases, the parent willingly relinquishes parental rights because doing so relieves him or her of child support obligations. If the parent refuses to surrender parental rights, you may have a difficult time proceeding with the adoption. It is possible that you could convince the court to involuntarily terminate parental rights, but family courts are reluctant to do this if there is no evidence that the parent is unfit.
In some situations, you will not need the consent of the other parent. For example, if the parent has made no contact with the child, if the courts have already terminated parental rights, or if the parent is unable to consent because of unavailability or mental incapacity, you will likely be able to file your application for adoption right away.
The next steps
Before you begin the process, it will be helpful to have a good understanding of Nebraska adoption laws and the requirements you must meet. You can get this information from an experienced family law attorney who will be knowledgeable of the procedure and any recent changes in state laws. Your attorney can also help you with filing the paperwork and preparing for meeting with a judge in family court.
There will be many legal forms to complete. The accurate and thorough completion of these forms is critical, and your legal advocate can be of great assistance in this step. You must then file these documents with the appropriate court and wait for an appointment for your hearing.
Finalizing the adoption
During the hearing, the judge or magistrate will interview you to gain an understanding of your fitness as a parent. Depending on the age of the child, the judge may wish to ask him or her questions as well. You can also expect a criminal background check, but you may not have to participate in a home study as you would with other forms of adoption.
When the hearing is over, you will know if the court approves the adoption. You will have another appointment to finalize the adoption at which time you can apply to change the information on your child’s birth certificate.