Many children have a relationship with a stepparent that is as close or closer than with a biological parent. Unfortunately, under Maryland law, stepparents do not have the same rights as biological parents. They cannot make decisions or authorize treatment. If a stepparent’s relationship with the parent ends, he or she has no right to visit or see the child.
Many stepparents seek to gain these rights by adopting their stepchildren.
How does stepparent adoption work?
In Maryland, the stepparent adoption process is significantly less burdensome than other types of adoptions. However, in a stepparent adoption, the court must terminate the other biological parent’s parental rights, so that parent must consent to the adoption.
What if the biological parent does not consent?
The law considers it important for children to have two caring parents. If the biological parent does not consent, there are still ways to proceed with the adoption:
- If the biological parent receives proper notice of the adoption and does not respond, the court may continue without that parent’s consent.
- The stepparent and other biological parent can prove that the non-consenting parent has abandoned the child by showing that he or she does not exercise parental rights or does not try to foster a parent-child relationship.
- Consent is not necessary for a father who is not on the birth certificate, never married the biological mother or never attempted to establish paternity.
Adoption is an excellent way to formally solidify the parent-child relationship and embrace the stepparent as part of the family.