The Sticky Situation When a Step-Parent Adopts

Aug 10

Our country, thankfully, is becoming far more open to some non-traditional family ideas. I don’t think that has anything to do with politics, per se. It’s much more about the fact that families, by and large, just aren’t quite looking as traditional as before. There are so many divorces, remarriages, step-families, adoptions, etc., it’s impossible to hold the old traditional family as the only way to see a family.

That is, like I implied above, a good thing, and yet, despite how most people support this idea, it is still very difficult to keep some non-traditional families together. Take, for instance, step-parent adoption. This is far more common than you may realize. There are plenty of instances where a step-parent is called upon to become the main custodian for a child. The most obvious would be when the biological parent is deceased, but there are also sad instances when the biological parent is unable or unwilling to take care of their child or children.

At that point, you would think it would be as simple to adopt the child for the step-parent as just signing a piece of paper, but as Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq. points out, it is actually an incredibly complicated process.

Some of the rules Mr. Bestafka lays out are obvious. For instance, the step-parent has to already be 18 years old to become a guardian. Both biological parents (if they are both alive and able to do so) also have to give consent to the adoption, and the parent removing themselves from custody of the child must also formally forfeit their own rights.

That is really only the beginning of the process, though. Extensive background checks are run on the step-parent, and children over ten must go to a hearing to give their opinion on the process.

All of this seems reasonable, and yet, it is an extremely complicated and drawn-out process. This is especially true, according to Mr. Bestafka, when the non-custodial parent refuses to comply and give up their rights. While this is an obviously difficult situation for the parent, if they are unsafe or unable to provide for the child, it is surely in the best interest to make this process easier, and yet, it appears that is often the opposite of what happens.

I hope that as this continues to inevitably become a more common family type, the process can be streamlined to make it easier to keep children with those they consider they parents.

For now, it seems like the only way to navigate such a system is with the help of lawyers like Mr. Bestafka. However, while we can hope the system gets better and be sure to recommend lawyers to help step-parents going through such a situation, we must also as a community make an effort to embrace publicly such non-traditional family types, to remove any stigma and to make it easier for the family to find support in a community during a very difficult time.

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Child Custody Information: Restrictions for Unfit Parents

Apr 11

Child custody is one of the most important details that divorcing and separating parents should arrange. Because it could entail difficult decisions, the court acts as a mediator to ensure the best interest of the child is upheld. As such, there several factors that needs to be considered. Still, regardless of what both parents decide, the court will have the final say in the manner.

Particularly in the last several years, the court has been keen on making sure that children are able to spend equal amounts of time with both parents. As much as possible, the courts prefer to award joint custody to ensure that children can foster a healthy relationship with each parent. Joint custody is when both parents can play an active role in making important decisions involving their child. Depending on the proximity of both parents’ home, they might also be awarded joint physical custody by the court. This is the ideal scenario that courts will want to see child custody arrangements play. This, however, won’t be the case if there is an unfit parent involved.

The court will restrict custody rights for parents deemed legally unfit to care for their child. This is typically determined by identifying factors that is considered dangerous or harmful to the child. If there are concerns about domestic violence, emotional abuse, substance abuse, and other criminal offenses, the court will carry out a risk assessment to learn more about the situation. Such an investigation can take place even after a custody arrangement has long been settled. Depending on what they find, the court could end up making important modifications to the custody arrangement.

According to the website of BB Law Group PLLC, the following scenarios are flagged by courts as cause to modify child custody arrangements and deem a parent unfit:

  • If a child being subjected to abuse, whether physical or emotional
  • If a parent is dependent on narcotic substances
  • If a parent’s new partner endangers the child’s well being

For example, a parent with drug dependence could have their visitation rights terminated. As pointed out on the website of lawyer James Powderly, the criminal justice system takes drug charges very seriously. Any serious crime will have devastating outcomes, which can affect a parent’s ability to play an active role in their child’s life.

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