Step-Parent Adoption: Process and Rights Explained

Florida law allows a stepparent to adopt his or her stepchild, to receive equal and full parental rights and responsibilities over the stepchild. It is not uncommon that a child’s stepparent fully acts as if he or she is the parent of the child being adopted, though cases vary.               

Rights of Stepparents:

Stepparents who haven’t legally adopted their minor stepchild possess no legal parental rights by simply being married to the child’s biological parent.          

Moreover, stepparents do not have an inherent right to adopt their stepchildren. Generally, in order to adopt, the stepparent will need to get the consent of the biological parent whose parental rights are going to be terminated. In circumstances where that biological parent has abandoned the child or cannot be found, consent may be waived. The stepparent will also need consent from his or her spouse to complete the process.     

Starting the Process: 

Eligibility to Adopt

Any adoption process begins with evaluating whether the adopting individual is eligible to take on the role.   Generally, almost any adult is eligible to adopt a minor child, though an exception exists for adults who possess a physical disability or handicap that renders that person incapable of serving as an effective parent. 

Filing an Adoption Petition

When you file a Petition for Stepparent Adoption, you are formally requesting the court to give you parental rights over your stepchild. Along with your petition, Florida law requires that you attach additional information including:      

  • The date and place of birth of the stepchild;
  • A description of how long the stepchild has been in the custody of the stepparent;
  • A statement indicating that the stepparent is physically able to care for the needs of the stepchild;
  • The reasons why the stepparent wishes to adopt the child;     
  • For children 12 years of age or older: documentation that an interview was held with the stepchild and the court determined the adoption was in his or her best interest.     

Once the petition and supporting documentation has been filed, notice must be given to any other interested parties.


The next step is to hold a hearing regarding the adoption. The Judge will ask questions and will make sure all the procedures were properly followed. At the end of the hearing, the adoption will be finalized.  

The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm has a team of experienced Probate, Family, and Estate Planning attorneys located in Coral Gables, Florida. As attorneys who have extensive knowledge in Family law, we understand it can be a time-consuming and complicated process. If you currently have questions regarding a family issue, contact us to set up an appointment to evaluate your options. We serve the entire state of Florida so call us for more information.