Stepparent adoption in the State of Ohio is an easy, yet time consuming process. Adoption by a stepparent is governed under statute 3107.03 of the Ohio Revised Code. Under 3107.03, the following persons may adopt:
- A husband and wife together, at least one of whom is an adult;
- An unmarried adult;
- The unmarried minor parent of the person to be adopted;
- A married adult without the other spouse joining as a petitioner if any of the following apply:
- The other spouse is a parent of the person to be adopted and supports the adoption;
- The petition and the other spouse are separated […];
- The failure of the other spouse to join in the petition or to support the adoption is found by the court to be by reason of prolonged unexplained absence, unavailability, incapacity, or circumstances that make it impossible or unreasonably difficult to obtain either the spouse or refusal of the other spouse.
In the case In re Adoption of Deems, the court held when it is in the best interest of the child, an adoption by a stepparent will be granted. (Ohio App. 3 Dist., 11-12-1993) 91 Ohio App.3d 552. This means that when seeking a step-parent adoption, you will want to ensure you put forward all information to help the magistrate find you as the most suitable parent for your stepchild.
The court will use evidence of a loving and stable environment to make a best interest determination. Id. The children in Deems expressed to the court that parenting time with the father was confusing and disconcerting, while further expressing a desire to terminate their relationship with their natural father in order to be raised by their stepfather. Id. The court in In re Adoption of Cline, held that the child’s best interest was not against manifest weight of the evidence. (Trumball 1993) 89 Ohio App.3d 450. The court in Cline used evidence that the child considered the stepfather to be her father and the stepfather’s interactions with the child provided a healthy, stable home. Id.
The court may grant the termination of the natural parent’s rights and adoption by the stepparent if evidence exists that the child views the stepparent as a parent. Likewise, the court may grant adoption to a stepparent where it is in the best interest of the child by proof that the stepparent provides a healthy, stable home which the child lacks from the natural parent.
In proceeding with a stepparent adoption, the moving party must find the rules in their county to ensure all steps have been adequately achieved. We will look specifically at the rules for Hamilton County.
In order to begin an adoption proceeding, a Petition for Adoption and a certified copy of the stepchild’s birth certificate must be filed with the Hamilton County Probate Court. The petition is used to identify the proposed parent, the child to be adopted, and to explain the circumstances surrounding the relationship between the parties. The state requires that the child must be in the home for six months prior to the finalization of the adoption. Generally, the six-month period begins on the date of the stepparent’s marriage to the natural parent.
In order for the court to approve a petition, a home study must be completed at the moving party’s expense. The Hamilton County Probate Court has a list of approved agencies who can complete an adoption home study. The petitioner is free to choose the agency they wish, as long as they are on the list provided by the court. The home study is used to determine the suitability of the home and includes psychological, social, criminal, medical, and financial assessments. The findings of the home study will be provided to the court by the agency once the full investigation is complete. The court can only make a determination in the case after they have received the findings from the home study. Since the home study can take up to 90 days to complete, it is best to start the process as soon as possible.
The state of Ohio requires any child over the age of 12 to consent to the adoption by signing a consent to adopt form which can be found in the adoption petition. Once all of the forms in the Petition for Adoption have been completed, the petition should present them to the magistrate’s assistant at the information desk on the 9th Floor of the Probate Court. At that time, a magistrate will be assigned to the case. The forms will be taken to an available magistrate for review and to set a hearing date.
Once a hearing date is set, the petition will be instructed to take the forms to the cashier for payment of fees and to receive a case number. The cashier will stamp the forms with the appropriate case number and return any forms that will be needed at the hearing. On the day of the hearing, both the adult seeking to adopt and the child to be adopted must appear before the assigned magistrate. The magistrate will then conduct the hearing and, if they determine the petition should be granted, will enter an order of adoption.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the clerk will complete a Vital Statistics – Certificate of Adoption and send it to the Ohio Bureau of Vital Statistics. The petitioner should then request a new birth certificate (in writing) with the required payment 30 days from the date of finalization of the adoption. The child’s new birth certificate should arrive within four months.
Zachary D. Smith, LLC, leading family law attorney in Cincinnati can assist you in obtaining a stepparent adoption in Cincinnati, Ohio. For more information or to schedule a consultation please contact the law office of Zachary D. Smith, LLC at (513) 275-1164 or visit www.ZDSLaw.com.