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Stepparent Adoption & Divorce

S. A. Jones Law  Sept. 20, 2022

Young woman with adopted African American boy outdoors.Parenthood comes with heavy responsibilities, and not everyone is prepared for what it requires. Sometimes, a stepparent can fill the role of mom or dad in a way that a biological parent isn’t prepared to do.  

However, even if a stepparent is more of a parent to a child on a day-to-day basis than one of the biological parents, until that stepparent legally adopts the child, the biological parent will still have legal parental rights that the stepparent does not have. 

Legally adopting a child can be a complex process, so it’s helpful to work with an experienced family law attorney. Shannon A. Jones can help you understand the steps in the process and address any obstacles with the biological parent. He offers compassionate and quality representation at an affordable rate. S. A. Jones Law proudly represents clients in Memphis, Tennessee, as well as Germantown, Cordova, and Covington.  

Benefits of Adopting Your Stepchild 

There are many benefits to adopting your stepchild. Perhaps the most important one is that you will be able to make decisions for your child in an emergency situation. Similarly, if your spouse, the child’s biological parent, passes away, then you will remain the child’s legal guardian.  

Once you are the child’s legal parent, the child is legally entitled to medical coverage from your employer. An adopted child is also entitled to the same inheritance as a biological child under the law. As the child’s legal parent, you will be able to access school records and take the child to the doctor. 

Of course, there are emotional benefits to adopting your stepchild as well. You can all have the same last name, which can be life-changing for a child. Adoption tells the world that you are a permanent family. 

Termination of Non-Custodial Parent’s Rights 

Before you can adopt your stepchild, the other biological, non-custodial parent must terminate their rights. There are two different routes to this: voluntary or involuntary termination of parental rights. 


The biological parent who does not have physical custody of the child may understand that it is in the child’s best interests for the stepparent to adopt him or her. If this is the case, the biological parent can voluntarily terminate his or her rights. Depending on your situation, it may still be important to keep the biological parent involved in the child’s life after they terminate their rights. 

Grounds for Involuntary Termination 

However, in some situations, the child’s other biological parent may not want to terminate their rights. When this is the case, it is possible to seek an involuntary termination of their rights.  

If the biological parent abandoned the child for years, has a history of substance abuse, a history of child abuse, or is incarcerated, these are potential grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights. Speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney to learn about your next steps in this situation. 

Stepparent Adoption Process 

The stepparent adoption process is simpler than other types of adoption. As mentioned above, the child’s other biological parent must terminate their parental rights. Also, you must be legally married to the child’s biological parent, and you must have lived with the child for a set period of time before filing for adoption.  

Issues in Stepparent Adoption & Divorce 

Life is constantly changing, and as such, your marriage may change over the years, too. If you and your spouse were to divorce and you had not legally adopted your stepchild, then you would not have any right to see that child again. 
However, if you had adopted your stepchild, then you would receive the same parental rights as a biological parent, even after divorce. You also may be obligated to pay child support. 

S. A. Jones Law Can Help 

Navigating the stepparent adoption process can be difficult, especially if the child’s other biological parent isn’t sure about giving up their parental rights. With the help of an experienced family law attorney, you can be confident that you’re taking the right steps for your family.  

Shannon A. Jones has over two decades of experience helping families with legal matters. He offers thoughtful and strategic legal services. S. A. Jones Law proudly represents clients in Memphis, Tennessee, as well as Germantown, Cordova, and Covington.