Adopting your stepchild can make your family feel connected and is accomplished with a process that is easier than a regular adoption.
Talk to your stepchild, and determine whether he or she wants to be adopted by you. Some children may wish to be adopted, while others may feel strongly about their biological parent.
Discuss the situation with your spouse. Does he or she believe strongly that this is what is best?
Consider the parent you would replace. Does he or she still have contact with the child, or has the child been abandoned by the parent? Would this parent be willing to consent to adoption?
Understand that, to be able to adopt, the biological parent must formally and legally consent, be deceased or the court must find that the parent has abandoned the child.
Realize that the definition of abandonment is one that varies from state to state but generally means that the parent no longer is a part of the child's life.
Contact a lawyer in your area who handles adoptions, or obtain books about how to file the adoption on your own in your state.
Request the necessary forms from court personnel if you are handling the adoption on your own.
Know that the adoption process moves much quicker in stepparent situations. Waiting periods and investigations are minimized or eliminated.
Decide what the child's name will be after the adoption. Will you be changing the child's last name to match yours? Discuss this with the child and your spouse.
Think about the need for counseling. If you are adopting an older child who has a memory of the other parent, counseling may help the child deal with his or her feelings about the adoption.
Make certain that you understand the legal implications of adoption. You will become the child's legal parent, no different than if you were the biological parent. You have the right to obtain custody should you ever divorce. You are responsible for supporting the child. The child will have the right to inherit from you when you die.
Don't expect the adoption to automatically turn you into a perfect family. Be patient. Some families like to have an adoption celebration to mark this important event with a small party or night out. Focus on making the day special for the child.