blog

 

 

 

North Dakota Stepparent Adoption Process

Stepparent Adoptions: Who Wants to Raise the Next Bill Clinton?

/ Family Law

Some children do not have the opportunity to have both of their biological parents in their lives. Sometimes the cause is natural. A parent may die, leaving his or her spouse to raise a child alone. In other situations, a parent may choose not to be involved in a child’s life.

In this regard, I was recently retained by a person who was tired of fighting to see his child and simply gave up. In this particular case, the mother was engaging in what is termed “parental alienation” in which she was making it difficult, if not impossible, for him to have any sort of meaningful contact with their child. While some people expend thousands of dollars to try to remedy this particular type of situation, he had decided it would be best to stop the struggle and hope the child would understand later in life and want to meet. In another case, a person had a child with someone via a one-night stand and did not want to have to explain to his wife and family (yes, you read that correctly) he had a child in another state.

Regardless of what happened to create the situation in which a child does not have a biological parent in their life, the parent raising the child alone often times finds a significant other that they eventually marry. When this happens, the opportunity for a stepparent adoption is born. And, this type of adoption is a lot simpler than any other type of adoption available in North Dakota.

In North Dakota, all adoptions have a few steps that are similar. First, one needs to determine who can adopt a child. As was just stated, the North Dakota legislature decided a long time ago that a married individual may adopt, without the other spouse joining as a petitioner, if the petitioner is a “stepparent” of the individual to be adopted. Key to this statute, however, is that the stepparent is only allowed to adopt the child if “the biological or legal parent of the individual to be adopted consents.”

This leads us to another common step to all types of adoptions — the termination of a biological parent’s parental rights. Although the statute on “who can adopt” a child says a biological parent must consent, there are, like most things in the law, a few exceptions. In some situations, consent is not needed due to the death of a biological parent or because a biological parent’s rights have already been terminated.

Without getting too much into the topic of the termination of parental rights, it is fairly common in stepparent adoptions for a biological parent’s rights to have been terminated previously because they did not have any sort of meaningful contact with the child for longer than a year (i.e., they “abandoned” the child under North Dakota law).

If the biological parent’s rights were not previously terminated and if they are unwilling to consent to the adoption, it is highly unlikely the adoption will go through. This is because it is extremely difficult in North Dakota, and the United States for that matter, to terminate a biological parent’s rights if they have had contact with a child and are unwilling to consent to terminate their rights. The reasons for this are a topic for another day.

The next step that is common to most adoptions is the requirement of a home study. This is where a third party comes into a hopeful adopter’s home and does an investigation. Once this investigation is done the person then submits a report to the Court on the fitness of their home. A stepparent adoption, however, is unique in that this step is not necessary. As such, a lot of time and money is saved in stepparent adoptions.

All adoptions, including stepparent adoptions, have a hearing. At an adoption hearing, the doors are locked and only individuals allowed by statute, or through the consent of all parties, can be present. Not many hearings in family law can be described as “happy,” but this is one of them. Stepparents are often very excited, as are the children, to make their relationship “official.” Most of the time, the children already see the stepparent as “Dad” or “Mom,” but after the hearing, there is a piece of paper proving it.

As you could have guessed by the title of this article, our past President William “Bill” Clinton was adopted by his stepparent. While Bill’s stepparent was not someone who people would call a noble man, it is plain to see it worked out just fine for old Willey and can for you, too.

If you are interested in finding out how to adopt the next President of the United States, please contact me at greg.liebl@swlattorneys.com or Jeni Albaugh at jennifer.albaugh@swlattorneys.com or 701-297-2890.