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Contested Stepparent Adoptions (Terminating Parental Rights)

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

At UALC we handle contested stepparent adoptions. Here's a brief overview of how these cases often go:

--The birth parent that has custody of the child calls UALC to get information.

--We discuss the two big issues: (1) Whether there is evidence to support terminating the non-custodial birth parent's rights, and (2) whether there is evidence that the stepparent adoption is in the best interest of the child.

--Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) is a big deal because we each have a constitutional right to raise our children. The bases for TPR include abuse, neglect, failure to communicate and generally being an unfit parent. (See Utah Code 80-4-301.) Evidence to support a petition for TPR may include law enforcement records, criminal / corrections records, medical records, neighbors' affidavits (and then testimony at trial), ORS records showing failure to pay child support, etc.

--Best Interest of the Child (BIC) is a big deal because the law requires the judge to find that TPR is strictly necessary, from the child's viewpoint. Usually, if there is a basis for TPR and if the child is bonded with the stepparent and not the biological parent, the judge will find that TPR is strictly necessary and adoption is in the best interest of the child.

--Once we gather information, we prepare the petition and file it in district court. We get a case number from the court. Then, we formally serve a Notice of Rights on the non-custodial birth parent, notifying him (usually it is a man) that he has 30 days to file a motion to intervene. If the non-custodial birth parent fails to file a motion to intervene, then the case moves forward without him. However, if he files a motion to intervene, then the court schedules a trial date and we begin discovery. Discovery is basically forced communication between the parties. Each side gets to ask the other for information and documents. The Law hopes that Discovery will help the parties see each other's point of view and resolve their disputes without trial. Sometimes discovery results in settlement and sometimes a trial is necessary.

At the Utah Adoption Law Center, we provide free initial consultation about adoption. Call or text us at (385) 200-1972 or (435) 592-1235.


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