In today’s world of blended families, adoption of a child by a stepparent has become common as parents strive to form cohesive and stable family units.
Under North Carolina General Statute § 48-4-101, a stepparent may file a petition to adopt a minor child who is the child of the stepparent’s spouse if the parent who is the spouse has legal and physical custody of the child, and the child has resided primarily with this parent and the stepparent during the six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition. In order for the adoption to proceed, the parental rights of the noncustodial parent must be waived, found not to be required, or otherwise be forfeited.
The effect of a legal adoption by a stepparent is to terminate the child’s relationship to the biological or natural parent whose role the stepparent is assuming. As such, any existing agreement or court order establishing custody or visitation with the child and the biological parent would be rescinded. A stepparent adoption does not terminate the relationship of the biological parent to whom the stepparent is married.
Once the adoption between the stepparent and child is final, the child loses the right through intestacy to inherit under the will of the biological parent whose parental rights are terminated. However, the adopted child would be entitled to inherit through intestacy under the will of the stepparent who adopted the child. A stepparent who adopts a minor child becomes a legal and physical guardian of that child and assumes responsibility for the child’s care and support. A biological parent whose parental rights are terminated may still be liable for any child support obligation that accrues up to the date of the adoption.
At Gum, Hillier, and McCroskey, P. A., attorney Janet Amburgey provides legal services to families in Asheville and Western North Carolina to facilitate stepparent and other inner-family adoptions. For more information, please contact our office by filling out the online contact form or calling 828-258-3368.
This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.