Deciding whether or not to adopt your stepchildren may seem like a complex issue. After all, we tend to associate adoption with an emotional connection to that child—not just a fulfillment of legal paperwork. However, if a biological parent is deceased, not physically present, or not providing financial stability for the child, it is a decision that warrants serious consideration.
There are many reasons you may want to adopt your stepchild. Stepparents often serve as primary caregivers and need to share in the day-to-day responsibilities of child-care. Under current laws, stepparents do not have any legal rights to serve the child’s best interest. Adopting a stepchild means that you are able to take full legal and financial responsibility as well as cementing an emotional bond.
One purely practical reason to adopt a stepchild is that it means you have the legal right to sign forms for school, doctor and dentist visits, as well as release forms for sports and activities. This is especially important in the case of medical emergencies if your spouse is unable to be present and sign for their own child.
Another reason you might consider adoption is the ability to provide benefits for your stepchild. You must be a legal parent or guardian to include a child on insurance policy. If the child’s biological parent does not have benefits, you might chose to adopt in order to provide healthcare, dental, or disability benefits.
Additionally, adopting your stepchild makes the emotional bond a legal one in the event that something should happen to your spouse, or if your marriage should end. Currently, in these situations the stepparent has no legal rights to the child regardless of their emotional connection. Adopting your stepchild allows you the peace of mind to know that your relationship with your stepchild can continue regardless of the circumstances.
Finally, adopting your stepchild makes it much easier for you to pass your inheritance on to them in the case of your death. More importantly, it allows your stepchild to claim social security benefits in the event of your passing. You might even consider adopting a grown stepchild for these reasons.
Adopting a stepchild may not be the right answer for all stepfamilies, but if you are already serving as a primary care-giver for a stepchild, or if any of the above situations sounds familiar, consider talking to an adoption lawyer to discuss your options.