In today’s world there are so many blended families. Step parents may adopt their spouse’s biological children, or a couple may adopt out of the country from an adoption agency. It is also possible to adopt as a single parent, and directly from the mother after giving birth. In this article we will be focused on step parents adopting their husband or wife’s children and what this may mean if they decide to ever divorce.
Regardless of your situation, if you are about to go through divorce and have children, adopted or biological, it’s important that you get help from an experienced legal professional who is familiar with family law.
Rights of Parents By Law
As the step parent of children you haven’t adopted, you do not have any legal power in the sense of making decisions for their well being or medical care. For instance, the child’s school may not allow you to obtain copies of the child’s records since you are not listed as a legal guardian or biological parent. This can become really frustrating, especially if you are playing an active role in their life and are helping your spouse raise them. You may consider adopting your step children so you can have such authorities by law. If you adopt your stepchild, you will gain the same rights as a biological parent, including:
- Inheritance Rights
- Custody Rights
- Parental Consent Rights
As your attorney may tell you, by getting parental rights you now have the obligation to provide for them financially. If you were to divorce from your spouse, you may still be required to make child support payments based on your stepchildren’s needs. Additionally, because they are now your children by law, they will have rights to inherit your assets after you have passed on.
Choosing a Last Name
If you are the stepfather, it can be a very personal choice deciding whether stepchildren should take your last name. After speaking with your spouse and stepchildren, if you all feel that it’s best for them to change their last name, you will need to notify your attorney right away. If years later you part ways from your spouse, your stepchildren may or may not want to change their last name back to their biological parent’s maiden name. Your attorney can give you information on how to file for their name change.
Divorce and Step Children
As stated above, once you legally adopt your children, you are responsible for providing for them until they are of legal age. So, if you and your spouse down the line decide to divorce, the court will view your step children as being biologically yours. This means you will have to negotiate with your soon-to-be ex spouse over child custody and visitation during the divorce settlement. As you can imagine, this process can be emotionally and mentally tiring, which is why many divorcing spouses consult with a reputable divorce attorney for support.