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Understanding stepparent adoption

The State of Ohio allows the stepparent of any child to adopt him or her. Stepparent adoption is relatively simple and inexpensive. Per the Ohio State Bar Association, a stepparent adoption can be accomplished by a nonbiological “parent” who is married to one of the child’s biological parents or by a nonbiological “parent” who is in a same-sex marriage with one of the child’s biological parents.

Deciding to adopt a stepchild is a loving thing to do, but potential stepparents should remember that this is a serious and irrevocable decision. Once adopted, the stepparent is considered to be the child’s legal parent just as if he or she had been born to the stepparent. The new legal parent has all the rights and responsibilities pertaining to that child.

Filing the stepparent adoption petition

The stepparent wishing to adopt must file a petition in the county court of common pleas where the child resides or where the child’s biological parent resides. Each Ohio county has its own requirements for the type and amount of information that must be included in the petition, but usually such information has to do with all relevant facts pertaining to both the child and the stepparent seeking to adopt him or her.

The child’s other biological parent must be served with a copy of the adoption petition and also must be given notice of the time and place of the adoption hearing. Usually this parent must give his or her consent to the adoption, but that is not always true.

For instance, if the petitioner or other witnesses present clear and convincing evidence to the judge that this parent has stopped communicating with the child and/or supporting him or her for at least one year prior to the adoption petition being filed, the judge can grant the adoption without this parent’s consent. Consent is likewise not necessary if a juvenile court has terminated this parent’s parental rights.

Stepparent adoptions by same-sex couples

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples can adopt children. Equality Ohio points out that prior to this decision, only one Ohio parent in a same-sex marriage had any legal rights to the couple’s children. Thanks to this landmark decision, married Ohio gay or lesbian parents have the exact same right to a stepparent adoption as married couples do.

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