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Steps toward a Louisiana stepparent adoption

Remarriage often creates a blended family. A parent's children from a previous relationship may share a Baton Rouge home with new brothers and sisters. Some remarried Louisiana parents want to take a "child by marriage" relationship to a more binding legal level -- a stepparent adoption.

Gaining parental rights may take less time through a stepparent adoption than other types of adoptions. However, the transition from stepparent to legal parent is not automatic. Approval depends upon passage of a criminal background check and a home study by caseworkers, among other requirements listed on the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services website.

Stepparent adoptions occur only when a birth parent surrenders parental rights or when those rights have been terminated for another reason. A Louisiana family court is reluctant to deny parental rights. However, a judge will do so in cases of neglect, addiction, imprisonment, abuse, abandonment or failure to provide financial support.

Some birth parents willingly relinquish parental rights but many dispute an adoption. In the absence of a birth parent's consent, it may be necessary for a court to determine whether a birth parent is "fit" before a stepparent adoption can move forward. Courts will rule in favor of a child's best interests, whether or not that includes a stepparent adoption.

A birth parent's permission for adoption is unnecessary once parental rights have been surrendered voluntarily or removed by a court. Sometimes, the issue of biological fatherhood comes into question.

Parental rights are presumed, according to state laws, when a man is married to the child's mother at the time of the baby's birth or when a father's name is on a birth certificate. Those rights may be terminated by a court with alternate proof of paternity. State laws define who is and isn't a presumed father.

The assistance of an attorney is not mandatory, but legal advice can facilitate a stepparent adoption.

Source: FindLaw, "Stepparent Adoption FAQ's" Sep. 24, 2014

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