STEP PARENT ADOPTIONS IN MICHIGAN
A person with children marries another person not the parent of those children. That person that marries the parent with the children is the step parent. The process for the step parent to adopt their spouse's children.
Step Parent Adoption ProcedureA parent has a child or children with someone not their spouse. The spouse of the parent is not the biological parent of the child or children. A step parent adoption means that the parties are legally married. The non- parent spouse wants to adopt their spouse*s child or children.
Unlike the Direct Placement Adoption, in a step parent adoption, one person is already the parent of the child or children. The biggest issue in a step parent adoption is the termination of the parental rights of the other parent.
Unlike in a Direct Placement Adoption, the Probate Court will do the background check in a step parent adoption. The State of Michigan police will do a background check. This evaluation will report the family background of the adopters, length of marriage (if married) income level, criminal background check, social history, age, and occupation, and types of child rearing the adopter(s) have in mind. Typically, a court employee will come to the step parent home for an interview, and to obtain all the necessary paperwork. Every 90 days, there is an update on how things are going with the child[ren] and the stepparent.
Termination of Parental RightsVoluntary Termination of Parental Rights
The biological parent is notified and requested to sign off their parental rights. If the biological parent is not involved it the child[ren]*s life and not paying or not wanting to pay child support, they will often sign the termination of parental rights.
Often, the other parent is ordered to pay child support and is behind in payments. IF all the back child support is owed to the custodial payment, and not to the State, the custodial parent may forgive or waive those amounts, if the non-custodial parent will voluntarily release their parental rights.
Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
It needs to be determined if the other parent is on the child*s Birth Certificate. It needs to be determined if a Court order of paternity has been entered. It needs to be determined if a Judgment of Divorce exists.
If the parents of a child are divorced, or if the parents are unmarried but the father has acknowledged paternity or is a putative father and if the parent having legal custody of the child subsequently marries and that parent*s spouse petitions to adopt the child, the court upon notice and hearing may issue an order terminating the rights of the other parent if both of the following occur:
(a) The other parent, having the ability to support, or assist in supporting, the child, has failed or neglected to provide regular and substantial support for the child or if a support order has been entered, has failed to substantially comply with the order, for a period of 2 years or more before the filing of the petition.
(b) The other parent, having the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with the child, has regularly and substantially failed or neglected to do so for a period of 2 years or more before the filing of the petition.
It is required to have TWO years of non- support and TWO years of non-contact to be able to terminate the parental rights of the non-custodial parent against their will.
Refusal of Non-Custodial Parent to Voluntary Terminate Parental Rights
If the non-custodial parent objects to the step-parent adoption, a separate lawsuit must be filed with the probate court, alleging, neglect. The key point is whether or not the non-custodial parent from the DATE OF THE PETITION FOR ADOPTION FILED, back two years has paid child support and seen the child regularly. For example, a petition for adoption is filed on August 15, 2018. The Court looks back to August 15, 2016. Then, from August 15, 2016 to August 15, 2018 tosee what visits and monies were paid during that two year period. Often, the custodial parent will contact the non *custodial parent BEFORE filing of the petition for adoption for agreement on the termination of the parental rights. The non-custodial parent suddenly decides to visit and pay some monies toward the child support. This will defeat the efforts to involuntarily terminate the parental rights of the non-custodial parent.
If the non-custodial parent objects to the termination of their parental rights, the probate court will appoint an attorney to represent them in the proceedings. Being a parent is a U.S. Constitutional right, and therefore, quasi-criminal in nature, so a person is entitled to an attorney. A trial will be held before the Judge to determine whether there is enough evidence to terminate the parental rights of the non-custodial parent.
Guardian Ad Litem
If there is a contest on the termination of the parental rights of the non-custodial parent, the probate court will appoint an attorney to represent the child[ren]. This person is usually an attorney at law, and they are called the Guardian Ad Litem [GAL]. Although the probate court has appointed this person, the adopting couple is responsible for paying the attorney fees. The GAL will represent the child[ren]*s interest at the trial.
The stepparent, custodial parent, non-custodial parent, and the GAL will go before the judge in the probate court for a trial. The issue is whether or not the non-custodial parent did not pay support or have contact with the minor child[ren], in the last two years.
Standard to Terminate Parental Rights
The standard for the Court is clear and convincing evidence. If both these requirements are proven, then the Court must determine if it is in the minor*s best interest to terminate the parental rights. The burden of proof is upon the Petitioner. The Court must find by clear and convincing evidence that the non-custodial parent had the ability to support his/her child[ren] and failed to demonstrate good cause as to why he/she did not do so.
After the probate court makes its* ruling, the parties have 21 days to take the case to the Court of Appeals. Again, the non-custodial parent will have a court appointed attorney to do the appeal.
The judge takes the consent of the non-custodial parent and makes an Order of Formal Placement to the stepparent and custodial parent.
There is a 6 month to 18 month waiting period for a step parent adoption. Often, the stepparent has been living with the child[ren] for years so there is no need to see if there will be a *fit* for a long period of evaluation. Typically, a request for an immediate confirmation of the adoption is made at the time of the filing of the adoption petition. A new birth certificate is issued.