If you live in Michigan and are already playing the role of mother or father to a child who is not biologically yours, you may be considering trying to adopt your stepson or stepdaughter to expand your rights and cement the family bond. Becoming an adoptive stepparent involves a lifelong commitment because once the adoption becomes official, you will have the same rights and obligations you would, had you biologically given birth to or fathered the child you are adopting.

If you wish to legally adopt your current stepchild, your situation must first meet certain criteria for you to move forward with the process.

Beginning the adoption process

In order for you to become an adoptive stepmother or stepfather, a court must first terminate the child’s biological mother or father’s rights to the child in question. This also means that he or she will no longer have to pay any child support orders that might be in place. The termination of parental rights might be voluntary, meaning the biological parent agreed to the termination, or involuntary, meaning a court decided terminating rights would be in the child’s best interest.

When the biological parent is on board

Typically, the easiest way for you, as a stepparent, to adopt your stepson or stepdaughter, is to simply have the child’s biological mother or father sign forms dictating that he or she agrees to the change. In doing so, that parent automatically gives up legal rights to the child.

When the biological parent is not on board

If, however, your stepson or stepdaughter’s biological parent is not on board with you adopting the child, things become a bit more complicated. A judge will have to terminate that parent’s rights before you can move forward with the adoption process, but again, your situation must first meet certain guidelines. The parent who would lose rights must not have visited with or provided for the child within the past two years, despite being able to do so, to have his or her parental rights terminated.

Ultimately, if you wish to adopt your stepchild and his or her parent opposes the adoption, you must provide clear, convincing evidence that doing so would be best for the child. If the other parent agrees with your adopting the child, you can typically move forward with relative ease.