Adoption by Stepparents in North Dakota and Minnesota

There are many children in North Dakota and Minnesota who may be residing in single parent households, due to unexpected accidents, an absent parent or the loss of a parent. In some cases, a child’s surviving parent enters into a new marriage with another individual and this new stepparent desires to legally adopt the child. These types of adoptions follow established state law with some slight distinctions between Minnesota and North Dakota. While these adoptions frequently are less expensive and resolve much more quickly than adoptions involving adoption agencies and home studies, stepparent adoptions still have the potential to be quite complicated. To navigate this process, stepparents often find it essential to obtain the assistance of a skilled family law attorney. This article will review some of the important laws about adoption that stepparents should understand. 

The state of North Dakota differs from Minnesota and many other states regarding stepparent adoption because the termination of parental rights and granting of adoptions are grouped into the same action. The adoption of a stepchild will only be granted if the parental rights of the child’s biological parent are terminated. In terminating parental rights, a biological parent surrenders all parental rights and responsibilities regarding care of that child.

In many situations, if a parent has always been absent from the child’s life, the parent will likely be willing to terminate parental rights. Voluntary termination of parental rights often results in the adoption process proceeding much more quickly.

In other situations, however, absent biological parents will refuse to consent to the termination of parental rights. In these situations, there are additional steps that must be made in the adoption proceedings including asking a court of law to terminate the parent’s rights. There are several grounds on which termination of parental rights can occur, including abandonment and some mental incompetence.

There are other situations in which adoption can occur even though parental rights have not been terminated. Courts are able to grant Petitions for Adoption if the appropriate individuals consent to the adoption, including the child if under the age of 18, the father, the mother, and the state of Minnesota or North Dakota. Once the adoption is finalized, parents are able to amend a child’s birth certificate to reflect the adoption and will replace the non-custodial parent’s name with the step parent’s name.

Contact a Knowledgeable Adoption Attorney

There is a risk that a case might involve complex paperwork and highly technical issues, which can make the help of a skilled family law attorney particularly necessary. If you are a stepparent who needs assistance in navigating the adoption process, contact attorney Tracy Lyson at O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Foss today to obtain assistance. Tracy can be contacted online or by calling 701-235-8000 or 877-235-8002.