A step-parent who has stepped into the role of a parent in the place of a biological parent often wants to make that parent-child relationship legal since step-parents have no legal protections of their relationship with their step-children under the current law in New York. A step-parent adoption is the perfect way to legally protect that relationship in the event something happens to the biological parent.
If the step-parent has lived with the child for less than 1 year, the first step is to have the step-parent be certified by the Court as a qualified adoptive parent. If they have been married for at least that long, the certification step is waivable.
The next step is to file the adoption petition, obtain a home study, be fingerprinted, and fill out the forms for the child abuse/neglect clearances. If the child is 14 or older, the child must consent to the adoption and an Attorney for the Child is often appointed to represent the child and discuss the adoption with the child.
The other biological parent’s rights also need to be dealt with. The easiest option is for the other parent to sign a consent to the adoption, which can be done outside of court. If the other parent will not sign a consent and is entitled to notice of the adoption (i.e., is on the birth certificate or was found to be the father by family court previously), that parent must be served with a notice of the adoption, which provides a date to appear in Court. If the parent fails to appear, the adoption moves forward without that parent’s involvement. If the parent appears in Court, the Court will schedule a hearing to determine whether the parent has the right to withhold their consent to the adoption and prevent it from moving forward.
Once the other parent’s rights have been dealt with, a finalization can be scheduled.
A non-married partner (same or opposite sex) of a biological parent can also adopt the biological parent’s child even though the couple is not married. That is called a second-parent adoption and follows all of the same steps except that the certification process cannot be waived.