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I Want to Adopt my Stepchild (or can my spouse adopt my child)

Welcome to the Utah Adoption Law Center, where our legal team handles adoptions everywhere from Salt Lake County and Utah County down to Iron County and Washington County. Today’s post is about the eight steps in adopting a stepchild. Let’s assume the birth mother is married to the adopting stepfather and has custody of her children. And let’s assume the birth father does not contest the adoption.

Step 1: Generally, the child must live in the home with the Stepfather for at least one year before the Court will approve a Stepparent adoption. But we can ask the court to approve the adoption earlier if there’s a good reason, i.e., military stepfather deploying soon.

Step 2: Gather documents:

- Child’s birth certificate

- Marriage certificate of birth mother and stepfather

- Birth father's contact information if available

Step 3: If the birth father’s paternity has not been established, then we do a paternity search with the Utah Office of Vital Records. If the birth father has asserted his parental rights, then he must be served Notice and given 30 days to file a Motion to Intervene. We file the proof of service with the court. For this video we assume the birth father does not intervene and the case is uncontested--perhaps due to substance abuse issues or incarceration.

Bonus Tip: Sometimes, the birth father is willing to sign a consent to the adoption because he realizes two things: (1) Due to past issues, he is not likely to ever regain custody of the child, and (2) adoption will free him of the burden of paying post-adoption child support.

Step 4: Stepfather has fingerprints taken and gets a criminal background check done. Note: A criminal record does not necessarily prevent a Stepfather from adopting, especially if the crimes were minor and/or in the distant past.

Step 5: We have DCFS search the Child Abuse Central Registry. Note: A finding in the Registry does not necessarily prevent a Stepfather from adopting. Many complaints to DCFS are not substantiated.

Step 6: We prepare the petition and other court papers. Then we file the case in the Utah district court where the child lives; we get a hearing date; and we go to the hearing with you–whether in person or over WebEx. At the hearing, the birth mother and Stepfather will testify about why adoption is good for the child. If the child is age 12 or older, then the child will testify also.

Step 7: Once the judge approves the adoption, we get certified copies of the adoption decree.

Step 8: Then, we work with the Office of Vital Records to get new, post-adoption birth certificates.

These are the basic steps for a Stepfather to adopt his stepchild in Utah. At Utah Adoption Law Services, we provide free consultation for all your adoption questions. Please call or text us at (385) 200-1972 or (435) 592-1235. We look forward to answering your questions!

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