Adopting Your Stepchild Guide

Learn more about the process involved in adopting your stepchild.

Rachel Skousen March 02, 2015

You love your stepchild and want to be able to provide him with the benefits that will come with being legally bound as a family. Though you didn’t contribute to their biology, you are dedicated to supporting and parenting them through all the ups and downs of life. Every stepchild deserves a loving home. Although every stepchild is different, there are a few common threads that link stepparents to stepchildren. You’re ready to adopt a stepchild, but you’re just not sure how.

This slideshow guide will help you understand the process of stepchild adoption. Read on!

Step 1: Make the Decision to Adopt
1. Step 1: Make the Decision to Adopt

Making the decision to adopt your stepchild requires strong consideration of everyone’s feelings. Most likely you and your spouse have discussed the advantages, challenges, and feelings that will be part of such an important decision. Be sure to talk with your stepchild about his feelings and emotions, as this can be a sensitive matter for him, depending on his age and the circumstances around the adoption. Be considerate of the other biological parent’s feelings as well.

Step 2: Hire an Attorney Familiar with Adoption and Family Law
2. Step 2: Hire an Attorney Familiar with Adoption and Family Law

An attorney will help you understand the laws in your state regarding stepparent adoption and file the necessary court paperwork. She will help you determine if you’ll need to complete an adoption home study (Generally in stepparent adoptions this isn’t required). She will also schedule a court date for the adoption finalization and will be present at that hearing.

You can find adoption attorneys in your area, and read reviews about their services, by browsing our directory of professionals.

Step 3: File a Motion to Terminate the Replaced Parent’s Parental Rights
3. Step 3: File a Motion to Terminate the Replaced Parent’s Parental Rights

This is required if the parent is still living and his or her rights have not already been terminated. In some cases, the parent may choose to voluntarily relinquish his or her parental rights.

In other scenarios, the court may determine the parent has demonstrated a lack of willingness or ability to act as the child’s legal parent, and will terminate their rights as consequence.

In either scenario, your attorney will be able to help you determine the appropriate course of action necessary in filing a motion to terminate parental rights.

Step 4: File a Petition to Adopt
4. Step 4: File a Petition to Adopt

This document will include background information about you and your spouse. You will need to complete a criminal history background check as part of this petition.

Step 5: Finalization
5. Step 5: Finalization

During this court hearing, you will appear before a judge and make a statement about your desire to become the child’s legal parent. Depending on the child’s age, the judge may also ask for her opinion.

Step 6: Apply for a New Birth Certificate for Your Child
6. Step 6: Apply for a New Birth Certificate for Your Child

You will now be listed as the child’s parent on his newly amended birth certificate. Applying for the new birth certificate provides you with the opportunity to change your child’s last name to match yours, if that’s what you have decided on.

Remember to keep a copy of the original birth certificate. Without that original document, it can be difficult to complete some of the legal application processes.

Step 7: Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Support
7. Step 7: Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Support

While your attorney will provide the needed guidance through the legal process of the adoption, there are others out there who can provide emotional support for your family. The dynamic of stepfamilies tends to involve a lot of emotion. Don’t be afraid to meet with a counselor as a family or individually. Having a third party there to hear and validate feelings can be very helpful.

Reach out to friends and family for support, especially those who you know have been through the process, or have experience with stepfamily matters or adoption.

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Rachel Skousen

Rachel has a long-held passion for adoption that was sealed through her work as the content manager at Adoption.com. She currently works as a content specialist at Adopting.org, finding and sharing amazing adoption content from across the web. She is a mom of three and loves reading and napping in her spare time.


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