FAQs: Step Parent Adoption in Indiana
The family law attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP have extensive experience navigating the process of step parent adoption in Indiana. We fully understand and appreciate the unique bond that develops between step parents and their step children and take pride in helping families solidify that bond through step parent adoption in Indiana. If you need an experienced Indiana adoption attorney to help guide you through the process, call our family law team today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form.
What is Step Parent Adoption in Indiana?
Step parent adoption in Indiana is a process where a step parent files a petition to adopt their spouse’s biological child. If granted, the step parent would then become one of the child’s custodial parents.
In order to successfully file a petition to adopt, Indiana Code 31-19-2-6 requires that the petition contain the child’s name, sex, race, age and place of birth; a statement and description of the child’s real or personal property, and its value; the name and place of residence of the child’s parent(s); and if applicable, how long the child has resided in the home of the petitioner. In addition, the petitioner must also include their name, age and place of residence, as well as the place and date of their marriage to the child’s parent. If the petitioner has been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor (if related to the health and safety of children), they must provide dates and descriptions of the convictions. Furthermore, issues related to ongoing child support and medical support must be addressed, as well as information regarding the child’s name change, if applicable. The petition must then be filed in triplicate, with the original copy verified by oath or affirmation by each petitioner.
In addition to filing the petition to adopt, a medical report detailing the health status and medical history of the child and the child’s birth parents must be filed either alongside or within 60 days of filing the petition to adopt. As described in Indiana Code 31-19-2-7, this report must include neonatal, psychological, physiological, and medical care history; and it must be on forms prescribed by the state registrar. The petitioner for adoption must also provide information, forms, or consent for a criminal history check to a local office that conducts an inspection and investigation required for the adoption of the child, and pay the fees associated with the criminal history check.
Who Must Be Notified about a Step Parent Adoption in Indiana?
Under Indiana Code 31-19-4, a mother that executes consent to the child’s adoption must provide her Indiana stepparent adoption attorney with the name and address of the putative father. If the putative father fails to or refuses to consent to the adoption or has not had the parent-child relationship terminated, the father shall be given notice of the adoption proceedings. If a putative father wishes to do so, he may waive the requirement to be given notice, either before or after the birth of the child. However, once notice of adoption is waived, the person may not subsequently challenge or contest an adoption of the child.
Is The Other Parent’s Consent Required?
In most cases, yes, the non-custodial parent is required to consent to the step parent adoption in Indiana. In regards to step-parent adoption in Indiana, Indiana Code 31-19-9-1 states that a petition to adopt a child (under the age of 18) can only be granted if written consent to adoption has been executed by each living parent of the child and the child if they are over the age of 14. The consent to adoption must be executed in the presence of the court, a notary public or an authorized agent of the department, or a licensed child-placing agency.
When is the Other Parent’s Consent NOT Required?
Indiana Code 31-19-9-8 sets forth various circumstances under which the non-custodial parent’s consent may not be required for a petition of step parent adoption to be granted by a court. These circumstances include:
- The non-custodial parent has been found to have abandoned or deserted for at least six months immediately preceding the date of the filing of the petition for adoption
- The non-custodial parent has failed to, without reasonable cause, significantly communicate with the child for a period of at least one year while their child was in the care of another person.
- The non-custodial parent has knowingly failed to provide for the care and support of the child, when able to do so as required by law or judicial decree
- The non-custodial parent is the biological father to a child born out of wedlock and has not established paternity by a court proceeding (other than the adoption proceeding) or by executing a paternity affidavit
- The non-custodial parent is the biological father to a child born out of wedlock who was conceived as a result of rape (for which the father was convicted), child molestation, sexual misconduct with a minor, or incest
- The non-custodial parent is the putative father of a child born out of wedlock and the father’s consent to adoption is irrevocably implied under Indiana Code 31-19-9-12 or Indiana Code 31-19-9-15
- The non-custodial parent is the biological father to a child born out of wedlock and paternity was established AFTER the filing of a petition for adoption in a court proceeding or by executing a paternity affidavit; and the father failed to meet the requirement of registering with the putative father registry.
- The non-custodial parent has relinquished their right to consent to adoption under Indiana Code 31-19-9
- The non-custodial parent whose parent-child relationship has been terminated under Indiana Code 31-35 or (Indiana Code 31-6-5, prior to its repeal)
- The non-custodial parent has been declared, by a court, to be incompetent or mentally defective
- The petitioner for adoption has proven with clear and convincing evidence that the non-custodial parent is unfit to be a parent AND it’s in the best interest of the child for the court to grant the adoption
- The non-custodial parent is the biological father but has denied paternity of the child and the denial of paternity is written, signed (in the presence of a public notary) and contains acknowledgment of the fact that the denial is irrevocable and that they will not receive notice of adoption proceedings.
In addition, there are several circumstances under which an Indiana court may revoke the requirement of a non-custodial parent’s consent. Per Indiana Code 31-19-9-10, a court may determine that, if it’s in the child’s best interest, consent to adoption is not required if, at the time the petition for adoption is filed, the parent is convicted of and incarcerated for an offense listed below and the child or the child’s sibling, half-sibling or step-sibling is the victim of the offense:
- Causing Suicide
- Voluntary Manslaughter
- Criminal Deviant Conduct
- Child Molesting (as a Class A or B, Level 1,2,3, or 4 Felony)
- Incest (as a Class B or Level 4 Felony)
- Neglect of a Dependent (as a Class B or Level 1 or 3 Felony)
- Battery of a Child (as a Class C or Level 5 Felony)
- Battery (as a Class A or B, Level 2,3, or 4 Felony)
- Domestic Battery (as a Level 2,3,4,5 Felony)
- Aggravated Battery (as a Level 1 or 3 Felony)
Can You Contest a Step Parent Adoption in Indiana?
Yes, Indiana Code 31-19-10 allows for a person entitled to a notice of adoption to contest a step parent adoption in Indiana. To do so, they must file a motion to contest the adoption in writing with the court in which the petition for adoption is filed. This must be done no later than 30 days after the service of the notice of the pending adoption and must set forth the basis on which the person is contesting the adoption.
Once a motion to contest an adoption has been filed, the court must set the matter for a hearing prior to entering a decree. Once the hearing is set, the court may dismiss the petition to contest prior to the hearing on procedural grounds, or if it’s found that the person who filed the motion has failed to diligently prosecute the motion, comply with procedural rules and statutes, obey an order of the court, or appear, after proper notice, at a hearing related to the motion. If the hearing occurs, the court shall, after hearing evidence, dismiss the petition for adoption if it’s found that the person filing the motion to contest the adoption has established that it’s in the best interests of the child for the motion to be granted; or a required consent to adoption has not been obtained or implied. The court also may deny the motion to contest the adoption.
When making a determination on a contested adoption, the court shall consider all relevant evidence, but cannot base it’s entire determination on a finding that a petitioner for adoption would be a better parent for the child or that a parent has a biological link to the child. Furthermore, if the petition alleges that a parent’s consent is unnecessary under Indiana Code 31-19-9-8(a)(1) or Indiana Code 31-19-9-8(a)(2), and that parent files a motion to contest, the court may consider the parent’s substance abuse, voluntary unemployment or instability of the parent’s household caused by a family or household member of the parent as justifiable cause for the parent’s abandonment or desertion of the child; failure to communicate with the child; or their failure to provide care and support of the child. However, the parent must have made substantial and continuing progress in remedying the factors and it must appear that it’s reasonably likely for the progress to continue.
Need to Speak with an Attorney about Step Parent Adoption?
Whether you’re hoping to adopt your stepchild, or you’d like to contest a step parent adoption in Indiana, the family law attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are here to help you. Our team fully understands the emotional and legal difficulties you may face when navigating an Indiana adoption, and stand ready to provide clear and empathetic counsel. Call us today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form.