Under the Michigan stepparent adoption statute, MCL 710.51(6), the legal rights of the biological parent must first be terminated before an adoption can take place. The parental rights of the biological parent may be terminated if that parent has both failed and neglected to provide regular and substantial support for the child and has regularly and substantially failed to visit, contact, or communicate with the child. The statute allows for termination of parental rights if all three of the following exist:
- The parents of the child are divorced, or the parents of the child are unmarried and the father acknowledges paternity, or a putative (presumed biological but not legal father in some instances)
- The parent who has legal custody of the child subsequently remarries, and
- That parent's spouse (stepparent) petitions to adopt the child
A stepparent may not adopt their spouse's child until the parental rights of the other biological parent are terminated either voluntarily or involuntarily. Voluntarily is the easier method. The biological parent must appear before the Court and state on the record that he/she wishes to voluntarily give up their parental rights, and that they believes it is in the best interest of the child to be adopted by the stepparent. If the biological parent will not voluntarily give up their parental rights, then the stepparent and new spouse must petition the court for an involuntarily termination of parental rights.
In cases where the biological parents share joint legal custody, there is an additional step before a stepparent adoption can occur. The stepparent's spouse must first obtain a modification of the custody agreement from joint legal custody to full legal custody and meet the legal burden for such a modification.
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Termination of parental rights and stepparent adoptions can be very complex. You need someone with experience in navigating the legal system. The family law attorneys at McGinnis Chiappelli, P.C. would encourage you to contact us to discuss your specific case. The INITIAL CONSULTATION IS FREE. We offer flexible appointment times, along with reasonable fees.