Adoption is a wonderful way to start a family, especially if you cannot conceive. But it’s not always easy — significant legal requirements and expenses are involved.
This post will outline the process of adopting a step-child in Arizona from beginning to end: what has to be done, where you can find more information, and any fees associated with the step-child adoption process.
Get started with the adoption process and build your family with the help of CHM Law.
In Arizona, any adult over 18 years old who is a US citizen or has legal permanent residency status can be considered for step-parent adoption.
Any adult convicted of a felony is ineligible for stepchild adoption.
If you are married, one spouse can adopt the other spouse’s step-child, but it should be understood that there could be complications during divorce proceedings.
A legal step-parent can adopt only if the natural parent legally consents.
What Does The Adoption Process Look Like?
It is independent or private if you file for adoption without involving the child’s parents. You’ll need to obtain a court order from the Court of Appeals and petition your local superior court for approval. The natural parents should be legally represented through this process and can object to the stepchild’s adoption at any time in proceedings.
If the child’s parents are on board with the stepchild adoption, your adoption will progress much more smoothly.
You and your spouse can choose to adopt jointly, meaning you’ll be listed as parents on the birth certificate, and both of you will have legal standing in the adoption. Or you may choose to adopt individually, meaning that one or both of you would adopt a step-child, and only your name would appear on the child’s birth certificate.
This is not something that the Arizona Court will consider, so you’ll need to petition the court separately.
The Steps of the Process are as Follows:
Step 1. Petition Drafting
The first step will be for your adoption attorney or adoption law firm will draft the petition for the court and include all of the relevant information required to begin proceedings.
A $200 filing fee will be returned to you if you are approved and granted custody.
Step 2. Parent Consent
During the second step, you and your spouse can choose to adopt jointly or individually, as outlined above.
The parents must sign an adoption release stating they are willing to legalize the adoption and consent to it being finalized.
This document is called an Order of Legal Consent or an Order of Legal Consent on Proposed Adoption with a Notice of Right To Object. The time and contents of consent are outlined under Arizona Revised Statute 8-107.
Step 3. Filing
Third, you provide this petition to the court, along with a filing fee (amount varies by county) and a Certificate of Service, proving that you notified all interested parties of your petition and have their contact details.
Your adoption attorney then files a Notice of Hearing with the court, on which date is set for your hearing date at least 30 days in advance. Filing your petition with the court and giving notice to parents and interested parties costs approximately $1,000, depending on your county.
Step 4. Notice
The fourth step will be that you’ll need to give a copy of your petition to the child’s parents and other interested individuals or parties. This costs approximately $60-$100 each, depending on how many people need to be notified of their right to contest.
Step 5. Court Hearing
For the fifth step, on the scheduled hearing date, you’ll need to attend and make your case to the Judge, usually in front of witnesses, including your parents or guardians if applicable, and any other interested individuals or parties. You’ll need to provide:
- Proof that you are over 21
- Your identification documents (including all names used previously)
- Court-issued family court paper if applicable (RTF 560 form required if not married). Depending on your county, you will spend approximately $300-$500 on legal fees.
Step 6. Proceeding
The sixth and most equally and just as important step, if the court approves your step-child adoption, you will now need to take the following actions:
- Apply for an Arizona birth certificate that specifies your name as a parent. You’ll also be asked to provide a DNA test, which may cost approximately $100.
- Register the step-child adoption in Phoenix. This will cost you $262 and will take about six months to process.
- If you are adopting a step-child and not marrying the other parent, you must obtain a marriage license.
- If you are married and want to adopt your spouse’s step-child, you must obtain a decree of adoption from the Arizona Superior Court. This costs $100 in filing fees, plus the associated court costs (varies by county). The decree is good for only two years and must be renewed if you decide to remain part of the child’s life.
What if the Adoption Seems Too Complicated to Handle?
If you think your stepchild adoption process isn’t going as smoothly, help is available.
You can always contact an adoption attorney or adoption law firm to discuss the matter and see if they can assist in simplifying things.
If you decide to contact the Arizona Court directly, you must provide a court-appointed adoption attorney or adoption law firm who will be advocating on your behalf. This can cost around $200+.
What are the Benefits of Step-parent Adoption?
One of the primary benefits of step-parent adoption in Arizona is that it allows the step-parent to establish a legal relationship with the child. Once the adoption is complete, the step-parent has all the legal rights and responsibilities of a biological parent. This includes the ability to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, including education, healthcare, and religious practices.
Step-parent adoption also provides emotional benefits to both the child and the step-parent. The adoption process helps to solidify the bond between the child and the step-parent, as it signifies a formal commitment to their relationship.
For the child, this can be an especially significant development, as it provides them with a sense of belonging and security. For the step-parent, the adoption can provide a sense of pride and fulfillment in being able to provide a loving and stable home for the child.
Another benefit of step-parent adoption in Arizona is that it can help to streamline the legal process in cases where both biological parents are not involved. In some cases, one biological parent may have little or no involvement in the child’s life, making it difficult to obtain legal consent for adoption. However, in situations where the absent biological parent has had little or no contact with the child, the court may be able to terminate their parental rights, which can facilitate the adoption process.
Step-parent adoption can also be useful in cases where the biological parent is unable or unwilling to care for the child. In such cases, the step-parent may be the only stable and reliable caregiver for the child, and adoption can provide the legal framework to support this relationship. Additionally, if the biological parent has a history of abuse or neglect, adoption can help to provide a safe and stable home for the child.
Finally, step-parent adoption can help to facilitate the creation of a blended family. In cases where a parent has remarried, step-parent adoption can help to create a sense of unity and belonging within the family. This can be especially important for children who may have experienced the loss of a parent due to divorce, death, or other circumstances.
Step-parent Adoption in Arizona can be Helpful in Custody Battles.
Child custody battles can be complex and emotionally charged, with a variety of unique scenarios that can arise. In many cases, adoption by a step-parent can offer significant benefits to the child, regardless of the specific situation.
One common scenario in child custody battles is when one biological parent is absent or unable to care for the child. In these situations, the other biological parent may be awarded custody, which can create tension between the two households. By adopting the child, a step-parent can help to bridge this gap, providing a stable and loving environment for the child. This can be especially important if the biological parent is not fulfilling their parental obligations or is otherwise unfit to care for the child.
Another scenario that can arise in child custody battles is when a child has a close relationship with a non-biological parent, such as a step-parent. In these situations, the non-biological parent may be concerned about losing contact with the child if the biological parent is awarded custody. By adopting the child, the step-parent can establish legal rights and responsibilities, which can help to protect their relationship with the child. This can be especially important in cases where the biological parent is not supportive of the relationship.
In cases where both biological parents are involved in the custody battle, step-parent adoption can also offer benefits. For example, if one biological parent is awarded custody, the step-parent can adopt the child to establish legal standing and ensure that their relationship with the child is protected. Alternatively, if the biological parents share custody, the step-parent can adopt the child to help create a sense of stability and unity within the blended family.
Another scenario where step-parent adoption can be beneficial is when a child is being raised by a grandparent or other relative. In these situations, the non-biological parent may be playing a significant role in the child’s life, but may not have legal standing. By adopting the child, the non-biological parent can establish legal rights and responsibilities, which can help to ensure that they can continue to provide a stable and loving environment for the child.
Finally, step-parent adoption can be beneficial in cases where the biological parent is abusive, neglectful, or otherwise unable to care for the child. By adopting the child, the step-parent can help to protect the child from potential harm, while also providing a stable and loving home. This can be especially important in situations where the child is at risk of being removed from the biological parent’s care.
In all of these scenarios, step-parent adoption can provide significant benefits to the child, as well as the step-parent. By establishing legal rights and responsibilities, the step-parent can help to ensure that the child is well cared for and protected, while also providing emotional stability and support. Additionally, step-parent adoption can help to create a sense of unity within the blended family, which can be especially important in cases where the child is experiencing stress or anxiety due to the custody battle.
Termination of Parental Rights
Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) is the legal procedure by which a parent is removed from having any legal rights from their child. A Juvenile Court Judge may make such an order if sufficient evidence has been presented that this is in the child’s best interest.
TPR does not prevent a biological parent from requesting the re-establishment of their parental rights. However, several factors may lead to a Juvenile Court Judge ordering a TPR.
Such factors include:
- Abandonment of the child for at least one year and failure to communicate with the child throughout this period.
- Abuse, neglect, or unfitness (includes physical, sexual, or mental abuse).
- The inability of the parent to support the child.
- If the biological parent is incarcerated.
- Placement of the child in foster care for at least 12 consecutive months.
The Bottom Line
Step-parent adoption can be a difficult process to go through. Arizona has some of the strictest guidelines and requirements for adopting a child in the United States.
Still, it can be accomplished relatively quickly with the help of an adoption attorney or an accomplished adoption law firm.
If you are a step-parent interested in adopting another parent’s child, contact CHM Law or visit our website for more information.
CHM Law Can Assist You in the Adoption Process
When searching for a Phoenix adoption lawyer, it is important to find an attorney who has experience handling family law cases and is familiar with the local court system.
Thankfully, the attorneys at Colburn Hintze Maletta have decades of real experience in handling such matters and a proven track record of success in adoption cases.
Attorney Darin Colburn has experienced first-hand just how difficult going through a family law matter such as divorce is when his parents divorced when he was 6 years old. Twenty years later, he has devoted his entire legal career to helping those facing similar issues. Darin attended the University of Arizona and graduated Cum Laude from the Eller College of Management. Darin is an experienced trial attorney that excels in high-net-worth divorce, complex business valuations, and messy child custody disputes.
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