When it comes to getting custody of a stepchild, New York’s laws can get pretty complicated. Many factors come into play, and you should understand your options before making any decisions.
In this blog post, we'll break down everything you need to know about how to gain custody of your stepchildren in the state.
Hurdles to Your Progress
Generally, New York law does not give stepparents custody rights. Stepparents must make a strong argument to continue to see the kids. They must convince the court that remaining in the child’s life is in the child’s best interests.
The court will consider many factors. It will look at the closeness of the relationship between the child and the stepparent. Judges will investigate the stepparent’s finances, lifestyle, quality of the home, and more.
Even when successful, stepparents are more likely to receive visitation rights than full or joint custody. This means they can have scheduled visits with the kids, but they won’t be able to keep the children for an extended period.
It may be possible to prove that the natural parent is unfit, causing direct harm to the child. In this case, stepparents may be able to receive guardianship.
In a more amicable scenario, the best way to receive custody is to legally adopt the child.
Filing a Petition for Adoption
Adopting a stepchild can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience for the entire family. As in any adoption case, you must follow the proper legal channels.
In New York, this process begins by filing a petition with the court. The petitioner must provide detailed paperwork. These forms explain why the stepparent has chosen to adopt, and they make sure the petitioner understands all legal obligations. This can be an intimidating process, but it can also strengthen the bond between parent and child.
Getting Consent from the Biological Parent
Adoption is a very serious decision, and it involves both parents. In most cases, the biological parent must consent to the adoption.
As mentioned above, there are situations where you can have the natural parent’s rights revoked. In instances of abuse or neglect, the court can remove a parent’s right to consent. This can make the adoption process more complicated and time-consuming. Therefore, you must make sure to all necessary steps to be successful.
Qualifications for Stepparent Adoption
The stepparent must show that they have been:
- financially supporting the child and
- involved in the child’s life for at least six months
After the Adoption is Finalized
Once you adopt, you will have all the same rights and responsibilities as a biological parent. The law sees no difference between biological parents and adoptive parents.
This includes the right to:
- The right to pay child support
- Physical custody and/or visitation
- Legal custody, or the ability to make decisions for the child
- The right to include your child on various benefits, such as health insurance
The stepparent adoption process in New York isn’t always straightforward. It takes patience, dedication, and commitment to ensure that it moves along smoothly.
That said, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Biological parents can gain a sense of security, knowing their child will always have an additional, loving parent, and the stepparent becomes a permanent fixture in the child’s life.
If you’re a stepparent looking to adopt, or you need help freeing a child from a dangerous environment, Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler, P.C. is here to help. You can schedule a free consultation with us by filling out our online contact form or calling us at (516) 514-3868.