"Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone.
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
you didn’t grow under my heart but in it."
—Fleur Conkling Heyliger
The bond between parent and child is so natural and so beautiful it’s hard to believe it has anything to do with the law. Yet the law has a lot to say about the relationship between parents and their children, especially when it comes to the rights of parents who are not related to the child biologically. That our language – and our laws – even have the words stepparent and stepchild is enough to make many parents curious about adopting their non-biological children.
"However motherhood comes to you, it’s a miracle."
Adoption is the process by which people become the full legal parents of minors who are not their biological children. As far as our laws are concerned, when you adopt your stepchild, you become in all ways their parent and they become in all ways your child. Adoption is the legal equivalent of a child being born to you! That means all the laws that apply to parents and their children will apply to you and the child you adopt, including those governing inheritance and estate planning, medical, legal, educational, and financial decision making, custody and co-parenting, tax planning, eligibility for public benefits, and more!
"Being a parent wasn’t just about bearing a child. It was about bearing witness to its life."
To adopt your stepchild is to acquire the legal rights of one of their biological parents. This can only happen after that biological parent is no longer the child’s legal parent. Sometimes, the biological parent voluntarily gives up (“relinquishes”) their parental rights by signing a simple legal document. Otherwise, you will have to petition a Court for a formal Hearing to remove (“terminate”) the parental rights of the parent who does not wish to relinquish them. Either way, this is only the first step in the adoption process. You must still convince the Court that it is in the child’s best interest for you to be their legal parent. This requires not only passing a thorough background screening, but also preparing and submitting a formal legal Petition and attending formal Adoption Hearings in Court. As adoptive mother, teacher, and author Jody C. Dyer put it: “Adoption is the most intentional process on Earth!”
"Little souls find their way to you, whether they’re from your womb or someone else’s."
While the unbreakable bond and limitless love you have for your stepchild in many ways defy language and transcend law, adoption secures your relationship with the powerful set of rights and protections that only come from legal parenthood. If you are curious about adopting a stepchild, we would love to hear from you. We can help answer your questions and share insights you might not have considered yet. And if you ever need help navigating any part of your adoption journey, whether inside or outside of the Courtroom, we’ll be here to support you with expertise, experience, and compassion.