While getting married and having kids is great, and relatively straightforward from a legal perspective, life doesn’t always go that smoothly. Sometimes the kids come before marriage, whether from a prior relationship or through adoption. So what does that mean for you if you’re about to become the newest addition to an existing family?
Marrying someone who has already adopted a child can be especially tricky. How tricky depends on a variety of factors:
- The child’s age now
- The child’s age when they were adopted
- Their history before they were adopted
- Whether they had a closed adoption
The Child’s Age Now
As with any other adoption, if the child is of a certain age, they have a say in whether they want to be adopted by their new step-parent. If the child does not want to be adopted by you, for any reason, then the adoption can’t move forward. That can be painful, but it’s important to respect their wishes and try to work through any existing issues that may have contributed to that decision.
The Child’s History
The child’s age and their history at the time they were adopted can also be important factors in whether they want to add a legal parent. While some children are adopted very young, and thus have never known any other family, others have lost their biological parents and/or been through the foster system. That can make it hard for the child to learn to put down roots and to trust that people are going to stick around for the long haul. For that reason, offering to adopt them can be a beautiful way to show your commitment, not just to your future spouse, but to their children. At the same time, it could also mean the child is not comfortable being adopted by anyone else, in which case it’s important not to force anything on them, even if they’re not yet of age to have a say.
Whether They Had a Closed Adoption
A closed adoption is when the identities of the birth parents and the adopted parents are not known to each other, in which case adopting your step-child could be fairly straightforward, assuming all parties are on board with the idea. But when the birth parents are still in the picture, it can make things tricky.
There are a variety of reasons this might happen. Your future spouse may personally know and/or be related to their child’s birth parents, but decided to adopt for the good of the child. It could be the biological parents were not ready to have a child and your future spouse was; or the biological parents may have been neglectful or even abusive, and your future spouse stepped up by adopting the child for his or her own good.
In any case, although they do not have legal rights to the child, if the biological parents are still in the picture, they may place some emotional pressure on the situation by expressing their disapproval. They won’t have the ability to formally object in Court, since they are no longer their child’s legal parent, but you may want to take their opinion into consideration to help things go smoothly, especially if the child has any sort of relationship with their biological parents.
Your Future Spouse’s View
Ultimately, it is your future spouse has the final say in all this, and he/she may or may not want you to adopt their child. No matter how well things are going between you two, their first obligation is to look after the best interests of their child. The tougher the child’s history, the more protective the adopted parent is likely to be of them. If your future spouse doesn’t want you to adopt, don’t take it personally. Just do your best to be an active member of the family, as a child can never have too much love.
The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests.