In today's society, blended families have almost redefined the makeup of a traditional family unit. The labels of "stepparents" and "stepchildren" are no longer taboo and are becoming more and more accepted in households nationwide.
If you're a stepparent who has formed a loving attachment with your stepchild, you may be thinking about legalizing the relationship through adoption, especially if the noncustodial biological parent has died or has disappeared from his or her life. Adoption can be a new beginning for you, your stepchild and everyone in your family, and when you're part of a military family, you'll want to consider both the benefits and responsibilities of making it all happen.
Benefits of adopting your stepchild
There are many emotional and legal benefits for adopting a stepchild that may include the following:
- Emotional benefits — When you commit to adopting a stepchild, it increases their sense of belonging and fortifies their confidence in feeling loved, accepted and secure within the family unit.
- Legal benefits — Legalizing the adoption of your stepchild allows you to share a last name, which can make things easier for your family. You'll also be able to make decisions on behalf of your stepchild, as well as have access and signature rights to their official documents like medical and school records. Be sure to consult with a lawyer since adoption laws vary from state to state.
Responsibilities of adopting your stepchild
The greatest benefit in adopting your stepchild is that they become yours completely. However, there are many responsibilities you need to consider when making that happen.
It’s important to understand that the process legally terminates all rights of the noncustodial biological parent and transfers them to you; therefore, you will be responsible for nurturing and supporting your stepchild’s overall well-being as if you had given birth to him or her yourself. Your new responsibilities of adopting the child include the following examples:
- In the event of a divorce from the child's birth parent, you will retain visitation and custody rights as well as child support responsibilities.
- If your spouse passes away, you would be fully responsible to care for the child without the threat of the remaining biological parent trying to seek custody. On the flip side, the child would have inheritance rights upon your death.
For more information and examples on your rights and responsibilities as an adoptive parent, contact a Military OneSource adoption consultant at 800-342-9647.
It goes without saying that adopting your stepchild is more than just paperwork. It can be a new beginning for your blended family. Take your time with the decision and be sure to consider the rights, responsibilities and the opinions of not only the child’s biological parents, but the child as well.