Divorce and separation is difficult for everyone, including the children. Adjusting to a new family situation can be challenging for children, as they typically thrive on stability and regularity. It is common for one or both parents to re-marry following a divorce, and that can help re-establish some of the structure for children. In the optimal situation, the step-parent can form a close bond with the children and help to provide support for the parents as they co-parent the children. However, in some situations, the relationship between the parents may not be amicable. In some of those cases, the remarried parent may request that his or her new spouse be allowed to adopt the children. If you are faced with a suit for step-parent adoption, there are some key ways in which you can fight the petition.
First, you need to understand that to complete a step-parent adoption, your parental rights must first be terminated. The easiest way for this to be accomplished is for you to agree, but you are under no legal obligation at all to do so. If you are opposed to the termination of your parental rights, it is important that you decline the invitation to sign any documents that may waive your parental rights.
Next, if you refuse to voluntarily relinquish your rights, the other parent and the new spouse will have to request involuntary termination. Involuntary termination of parental rights is very difficult, as your parental rights enjoy Constitutional protection. There are nine grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights in Minnesota, and the other parent and his or her new spouse will have the burden to prove at least one of them. These grounds include such things as abandonment, neglect, or conviction of a serious and violent crime. Note that one of the grounds is not that the step-parent may be more wealthy or they believe may simply make a more attentive parent. The involuntary termination grounds require that they prove you are an unfit and unsuitable parent. In addition to the statutory grounds, they will have to prove that termination of your parental rights is in the child’s best interest. Accordingly, if you want to fight a step-parent adoption, you should remember that it is up to the other side to affirmatively prove these things, but that does not mean you should stand by and not bring your own evidence. Evidence of your bond with the child, support paid for the child, and visitation exercised can all be key to ensuring that your rights are not terminated.