The American family has been changing for years. Traditional, two-parent families have been on the decline for decades. In 1960, 73% of children lived with two parents in their first marriage. By 2014, that number had dropped to 46%. There are many reasons for this, including a decline in birth overall, more women being in the workforce, and broader acceptance that sometimes marriages are better off ending than continuing under unhappy circumstances.
Regardless of the reasons for these changes, it’s important to consider what’s best for the kids of marriages that end. Oftentimes, a parent will find a new partner and form a blended family. 40% of families in the U.S. are now blended. Stepparents in these new families might leave their legal relationship with their stepkids as is, but the truth is that there are many benefits to stepparent adoption. Let’s explore a few of these benefits.
- Gaining parental rights
While a family can be happy and tight-knit whether they’re legally considered a family or not, there are tons of situations in which having legal custody can be extremely important. Even if you are much closer to your stepchild than the child’s other biological parent, they’ll retain more control over them.
If you don’t have parental rights, you won’t be able to make important decisions on their behalf. These can include religious, medical, or educational decisions that have a huge impact on the child’s life. You also may not be able to accompany the child to certain places or be able to visit them in the hospital in case of a medical emergency.
Parental rights also act as insurance in case your spouse dies or becomes unable to care for the child. If you aren’t the child’s legal parent, you may lose custody of them entirely, leaving them to the care of their grandparents or other biological parent. We hope these situations never occur, but it pays to plan ahead just in case.
- Administrative benefits
Stepparent adoption allows a step parent to provide administrative benefits for a child. For one, if you have a good health insurance policy, you’ll be able to cover them. Even if your health insurance policy doesn’t stipulate that a child needs to be legally yours, you’re setting up a system where any future policies are guaranteed to keep them covered.
Adoption also will allow you to leave an inheritance for a child without a will. Without a will, the law may not permit it. If you do have a will (and we recommend that you do), it’ll most likely smooth out the probate process and prevent any complications that may arise with the distribution of your estate. Should anyone question the child’s relationship to you, there won’t be any discrepancies.
- Minimize the influence of a toxic biological parent
It’s better for everyone if you can maintain a good relationship with a child’s biological parent, but there are some cases where that simply won’t be possible. Sometimes children can be put in the middle of a toxic situation in which a biological parent mistreats them or uses them for leverage in an unfortunate way. Sometimes a child’s biological parent can be marred by behavioral problems or substance abuse. Through stepparent adoption, you can eliminate these possibilities.
When you adopt a stepchild, the parental rights of their biological parent will no longer be valid. They won’t have rights to shared custody or visitation, and they won’t be able to receive a court order that will allow them to interact with the child in any way.
- You’ll be making a commitment to a child you care about
Not all benefits of stepparent adoption are strictly legal. Stability and ongoing care is important for a child’s development, and by agreeing to be their legal parent, you’ll be making a commitment to treat that child like they were your own. This may mean a lot to both your kid and your spouse on an emotional level. By becoming a parent, you’re ensuring them that you’ll be by their side through thick and thin.
Are you ready to take that One Last Step and adopt your stepchild? We can help.
The Stepparent Adoption is dedicated to one purpose: stepparent adoption. We know there is often a lot of concern and worry about the stepparent adoption process. We also know that there have been countless cases where adoption has brought unmatched joy to parents and solidified a lifelong relationship between a child in need and a stepparent who loves them like their own. We’re here to help you through this process. To learn more, contact us today.