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When/how can a 15 year-old get in front of a Judge to request emancipation from one biological parent = adoption by step-parent.

Midland, MI |

My wife and I have been struggling with the Courts for years to allow for our daughter (my step-daughter) to have her voice heard in the legal system. She has not seen her biological father for over 7 years, nor has she wanted too. She was witness to many domestic violence interactions as a young child, between my wife and her ex-husband (biological father). The biological father is a habitual offender, and is not permitted to have contact with her, and has fled the State prior to being sentenced in another Domestic Violence trial, with his then 2nd ex-wife. We have found out that he has been in additional legal (felony) troubles in another State. My daughter has chosen to be known with my last name for the last 6 1/2 years, and we continue to fight for the adoption as we all wish.

Attorney Answers 3

  1. Under Michigan law, one can not petition the court for emancipation until they are at least 16 years old (look up "MCL 722.4a" and "PC 100 Michigan Court Form" on-line). However, under your case facts, perhaps the better way to accomplish her goal is for the mother to request a termination of the father's rights with court, indicating to the court that you, as the step-father, are willing to "step-in" and adopt the child. Unless there is someone who is willing to adopt the child, many courts are hesitant to terminate one's parental rights. I wish you all the best of luck. Warmest regards, Matt Catchick.

  2. At the present time, in order for you to adopt, the father must consent to the adoption, not just the mother. Consent would not be necessary if his parental rights were terminated. There is a statute in the state which provides for a procedure to terminate the parental rights if the parent fails to exercise parenting time and fails to pay support for a period of 2 years (not cumulative 2 years over the period since custody was established and obligations imposed by court order).

    See a family law attorney to provide further information which will assist in better evaluating your issue. The attorney will then know how to advise you, and whether there is the possibility of terminating his parental rights under the statute.

    Neil M. Colman

    Mr. Colman is licensed to practice law in Michigan. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Colman strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.

  3. I agree with what my collegues have said - adoption would be the best way to accomplish this. A step-parent adoption would allow you to become her "legal" father an terminate the rights of her biological father. It would also change her name to legally match what she has been using. This can be done without the biological father's consent, typically if he has not had regular contact with the child in 2 years, and if he has failed to provide financial support. If this is the case, it would be possible to file a petition of step-parent adoption and termination of the biological father's rights. Going through this process is similar to a general adoption, in that background checks on the mother and step-parent will be completed, and a home visit will be required. All of this can be completed without an attorney; however, I would recommend consulting an attorney to ensure it is done correctly.

    Kelly G Lambert III

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