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If you’re getting a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania and you have a child with your soon-to-be ex, you may be wondering, “If I remarry, is it possible for my new spouse to adopt my child?” If you’re thinking about this, it’s probably because your current spouse is a less than ideal mother or father.

Your spouse may be on-board with you about getting a no-fault divorce, but that doesn’t mean they’ve been a good parent to your child. Perhaps your spouse has been an absent parent and they’re more concerned about themselves than the child you have together.

Perhaps they’re physically abusive and you’re hoping to distance your child from them for their safety. Perhaps your spouse has a substance abuse problem or is suffering from a severe mental illness – these things happen.

Now, you’re thinking you may remarry someone better one day and when that time comes, you’re hoping your new partner will gladly adopt your child and provide a loving, stable parent-child relationship. The question is, how do you accomplish a stepparent adoption?

How Stepparent Adoptions Work

Stepparent adoptions can be wonderful, but the courts do not strip a mother or father of their parental rights easily. Usually, one of two things have to occur before a stepparent can legally adopt their stepchild: 1) the other parent has to voluntarily waive or “relinquish” their parental rights, or 2) a court has to order an involuntary termination.

If your former spouse agrees to terminate their parental rights so your new spouse can adopt your child, the process should be painless. But, if you cannot locate your former spouse, or if they refuse to terminate their parental rights, you’ll need to convince the court that terminating their parental rights is in your child’s best interests. Courts usually only do this when someone, such as a stepparent, is willing to step in and adopt the child.

Some of the grounds for involuntary termination include:

  • For at least six months, the parent has refused to perform their duties as a parent.
  • Child abuse, neglect, continued incapacity to parent, or the refusal to care for the child has caused the child to be without critical food, control, or parental care necessary for the child’s physical and emotional well-being.
  • A man is the presumptive father, but he is not the child’s biological father.

To learn more about involuntary termination of parental rights, click here.

While most divorcing mothers and fathers earnestly strive to stay active in their children’s lives after the marriage is terminated, we cannot ignore the fact that some former spouses disappear from their children’s lives. In these situations, sometimes a stepparent adoption is in the child’s best interests.

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