If you are a stepparent in the state of Florida who wishes to legally adopt your stepchild, you will use one or more of the following Florida family law forms:
12.981(a)(1) Stepparent Adoption: Consent and Waiver by Parent
12.981(a)(2) Stepparent Adoption: Consent of Adoptee
12.981(a)(3) Affidavit of Nonpaternity
12.981(a)(4) Stepparent Adoption: Affidavit of Diligent Search
12.981(a)(5) Indian Child Welfare Affidavit Act
12.981(a)(6) Motion for Search of the Putative Father Registry
12.981(a)(7) Order Granting Motion for Search of the Putative Father Registry
12.981(b)(1) Joint Petition for Adoption by Stepparent
12.981(b)(2) Final Judgment of Stepparent Adoption
12.981(c)(1) Petition for Adoption of Adult by Stepparent
12.981(c)(2) Stepparent Adoption: Consent of Adult Adoptee’s Spouse
12.981(d)(1) Petition for Adoption Information
12.981(d)(2) Order Releasing Adoption Information
What is Stepparent Adoption?
Stepparent adoption in Florida occurs when the married stepparent adopts his or her spouse’s child or children from a prior marriage or relationship. Unfortunately, in the case of stepparent adoptions, achieving the goal may require a somewhat rocky road. The first step in the journey of stepparent adoption will be to establish paternity because in order to create a stepparent adoption, the biological parent’s rights must be terminated. This can be accomplished through consent by the biological parent or through a trial in which it must be shown that the biological parent has abused, neglected or abandoned the child to the extent his or her parental rights should be terminated. Florida courts take the termination of parental rights extremely seriously—in some cases even long-term incarceration may not be sufficient to terminate parental rights.
What is a Termination of Parental Rights?
A termination of parental rights severs all legal ties between the child and parent, including any responsibility to pay child support as well as any potential inheritance rights. It is important to think carefully about severing legal ties between a biological parent and child, as this severance includes extended family of the biological parent as well. Further, if a child is killed in an accident, the parent who has had his or her parental rights terminated will have no authority to bring a wrongful death act. Once a stepparent adoption is completed, the “normal” legal rights between biological parent and child will now exist between the child and the stepparent. This includes the fact that should the child’s other parent and the stepparent divorce, the stepparent has the same duty to pay child support as the former biological parent.
Forms You Will Need to File to Complete a Stepparent Adoption
Form 12.981(a)(1), Stepparent Adoption: Consent and Waiver by Parent will need to be completed and signed by the parent who is giving up all rights to the minor child in question, then the original will be filed with the court clerk. There is a place on the form for the parent relinquishing parental rights to sign, stating they received a copy of the form. Florida family law form 12.981(a)(2) must be completed and signed by the adoptee, providing the child is over the age of 12. The form must be signed in front of a notary public with two witnesses other than the notary public or deputy clerk and filed with the court clerk. If a stepfather is adopting his wife’s minor child and the mother and father of the minor child were never married and paternity has not been established, Florida family law form 12.981(a)(3), Affidavit of Non-paternity will be used instead of a consent form. This affidavit can be executed prior to the child’s birth, and the person who signs the affidavit waives all further right to notice of related court proceedings.
If you are searching for the child’s biological parent in order to have a consent form or affidavit signed but you are unable to locate that person, you can use Florida family law form 12.981(a)(4), Stepparent Adoption: Affidavit of Diligent Search in order to show the courts that you have made a diligent effort to locate the child’s biological parent. Florida family law form 12.981(a)(5) must be used in any case involving stepparent adoption of a child. On this form you will check the box that says the child in question is not an Indian child, therefore The Indian Child Welfare Act does not apply to this proceeding OR the child in question is an Indian child within the meaning of the Indian Child Welfare Act. As with all other forms, this form must be filed and mailed or hand-delivered to the other party in your case if it is not served with the initial papers.
If you are adopting your spouse’s child or children, Florida statutes require a search of Florida’s Putative Father Registry. Florida family law form 12.981(a)(6), Motion for Search of the Putative Father Registry must be completed and filed with the court; if approved, you may need to provide the judge an Order Granting Motion for Search of Putative Father Registry to sign. You will then take the Order, your completed application and the necessary fees to the Florida Office of Vital Statistics. A search will be conducted, and the results filed with the court clerk; you will call the clerk’s office in order to determine when those results have been filed so you can request a final hearing in the case. If you are adopting your spouse’s child or children you will need to complete Florida family law form 12.981(b)(1), Joint Petition for Adoption by Stepparent and both you and your spouse will sign the form. Consent must be obtained from the mother of the minor and the father of the minor if:
• The child was conceived or born while the mother and father were married
• The child was adopted by the father
• A court proceeding established the minor was the father’s child
• The father filed an affidavit of paternity or
• In the case of an unmarried, biological father, that father has acknowledged in writing that he is the father of the minor and such acknowledgement was filed with the Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health.
Determining whether a person’s consent is necessary can be extremely complex; it is generally a good idea to consult a knowledgeable Florida family law attorney from The Family Law Place. Florida family law form 12.981(b)(2) grants the stepparent adoption and reiterates the severance of the biological parent’s parental rights.
Adoption of an Adult Child and Other Stepparent Adoption Issues
If you want to adopt your spouse’s adult child, you will need to obtain written consent by the adult child as well as written consent of the adult child’s spouse if he or she is married. You will use Florida family law forms 12.981(c)(1), Petition for Adoption of Adult by Stepparent and 12.81(c)(2), Stepparent Adoption: Consent of Adult Adoptee’s Spouse in order to accomplish this task. Florida family law form 12.981(d)(1), Petition for Adoption Information is used to request the release of relevant medical or social information on an adoptee, however this form cannot be used to find the identity of birth parents. An Order Releasing Adoption Information will accompany the Petition, and will require the signature of the circuit court drugs.
Additional Information Related to Stepparent Adoption
While you can readily access the Florida family law forms related to stepparent adoption, there are a number of variables, including whether the biological parent will consent to the adoption as well as the long-term consequences of severing the legal connection between biological parent and child. If the biological parent still has regular contact with the child, you will not be able to complete a stepparent adoption without express consent. If you cannot convince an absent biological parent to consent to the stepparent adoption, you might choose to file a petition to terminate the parental rights of the absent parent.
Florida statutes allow termination of parental rights if the biological parent deserted or abandoned the child or has been declared incompetent with the expectation that restoration of competency is improbable. If all parties are available and the biological parent grants consent, the entire stepparent adoption process could take approximately four months. If the biological parent is unavailable or contests the adoption, it could take significantly longer. Stepparent adoption in Florida is currently only available to married couples, however Florida does not recognize same-sex marriages, therefore a same-sex couple in Florida may not apply for stepparent adoption.
The Florida stepparent adoption route can be fraught with frustrations and difficulties. The attorneys at The Law Place have been helping families achieve their goal of stepparent adoption for many years, and we would like to talk to you, assess your case, and give you a good idea of how that case would proceed. Call The Law Place today.