Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

What are key points to remember about stepparent adoption?

In Utah, it is not unusual for a stepparent to seek to adopt a minor child. There could be a number of reasons for this. Regardless of why a stepparent would like to move forward with the process, there are certain adoption issues to navigate.

For the prospective adoptive parent, the following must be in place: the stepparent must be married to the child's custodial parent, the stepparent or the spouse of the stepparent must be a minimum of 10 years older than the child and the child must have resided with the custodial parent and stepparent for a minimum of one year. The last requirement can be waived by the presiding judge.

Once all parties who are required to consent to the adoption have done so and the parties who are within their rights to receive notice of the adoption and can intervene have waived their rights, the adoption can go forward. The adoptive stepparent must do the following: file the necessary documents, be in attendance at the scheduled hearing and reply to questions from the judge and sign the documents at the hearing. The judge will sign the decree allowing the adoption.

If consent is required from a particular party and they have not provided it or the above-mentioned rights to have notice or intervene are not waived, then there are other factors to remember. The person must receive a Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights, and they will be granted 30 days to file a motion to intervene. If there is no motion to intervene, then the adoption can continue to the hearing after it is possible to have a default judgment. If there is a denial of the motion to intervene, the person can appeal. If the motion to intervene is granted, the person can give evidence as to why the adoption is not in the best interests of the child. Finally, if the intervening person is the parent, that person can give evidence as to why the parental rights should not be terminated.

Stepparents who are seeking to adopt a stepchild must follow the required steps to legally complete the process. These cases can be complicated and, in some instances, contentious. Regardless of whether it is expected to be a simple process or a complex one, it is always smart to have legal assistance from an attorney who has experience in stepparent adoption. This can ensure that the rights of everyone involved are protected and the best interests of the children are kept in mind.

Source:, "Adopting a Minor Stepchild," accessed on Jan. 17, 2017

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