When a parent remarries after the death of a former spouse or after a divorce, the new spouse may desire to formally adopt the child or children of their current spouse. A stepparent may choose to formally adopt a spouse's child from a prior relationship, but the natural parent must receive notice of the adoption proceeding. The natural parent must consent to the adoption or else must be determined "unfit" before a step-parent adoption will be finalized. A similar protocol applies when a child is born outside marriage, the birth parent later remarries, and the stepparent wants to adopt the child.
Possible Routes for Stepparent Adoption (IF BOTH PARENTS ARE ALIVE):
1. Consent: This is when the birth parent consents to the adoption. This often occurs when an absentee parent terminates his or her parental rights therefore ending his or her child support obligation. Consent is the simplest and least expensive route to stepparent adoption.
2. Termination of Parental Rights: A termination of parental rights is an action that terminates a biological parents rights to parent including any custodial and visitation rights and responsibilities. A parent can relinquish his or her parental rights either voluntarily or involuntarily. A voluntary termination is agreed upon by both parents whereas an involuntary termination may occur without either parent's consent.