HELPING FAMILIES WITH ADOPTIONS IN CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC
ADOPTION OF STEP-CHILDREN IN SOUTH CAROLINA
One of the more common trends that we see in the recent practice of family law is the wishes of step-parents to adopt step-children. The most obvious reason for this is that a previously divorced parent is bringing a child / children into the new marriage. Another common fact pattern is for the newly married spouse to legitimize a child that was born out of wedlock. From my clients perspective, the reason for adopting step-children is purely emotional. The purpose is for the new family unit to share the same name, same home, and the emotional bond that can only be found in family. From a lawyer's perspective, the adoption of step-children carries with it certain inherent legal rights, the most important of which is the right of inheritance.
A question that I am often asked is whether the adoption of step-children is as arduous and difficult as a "standard" adoption. The answer to this . . . again not to be a politician, is that it doesn't have to be. South Carolina, by statute, has set up what one could call a "streamlined" process for the adoption of step-children that can greatly reduce the time and funds needed to effectuate an adoption, if the proper parties and consents are obtained.
SOUTH CAROLINA STEP-CHILD ADOPTION: THE "OTHER" PARENT
The first step to address in the step-child adoption process is the involvement of the "other" biological parent. If there is going to be a speed bump in this process it usually occurs here. There are 3 possible scenarios that can come up at this stage in the adoption when dealing with the other parent:
- Consent - if the other biological parent consents to the adoption by the step-parent, the you can pass go and collect $200.00 and go forward with your adoption.
- Abandonment - much like is outlined in the general adoption statutes, if the non-custodial biological parent has not retained contact or provided any material support to the child, then the Family Court can waive the consent requirement.
- Unfit Parent - if the other biological parent has been deemed unfit and had their parental rights terminated by a Family Court of competent jurisdiction, then again a consent of that parent is not necessary.
Two considerations to think about when dealing with the other parent prior to a step-child adoption. First, the non-custodial parent must be given notice of the adoption hearing whether their consent is required or not. Do not confuse not needing consent with not needing to give notice. Second, the better practice if you are dealing with a non-custodial parent is to deal with this openly and have a comprehensive plan moving forward. In my experience where consent has been needed, the more open and diplomatic the process the more likely a consent can be had in a timely fashion.
SOUTH CAROLINA STEP-CHILD ADOPTION: FAST TRACK
Once you have your necessary consent or consent waiver, the process does become way more streamlined for step-children. The South Carolina General Assembly, by statute (S.C. Code Ann. Sec. 63-9-1110) provides a list of specific waivers that may apply to step-child adoptions that do not apply to general adoptions. These waivers include:
- No requirement of an investigative report on the home as required in a general adoption
- No requirement of an accounting of monies spent in anticipation of the adoption or with adoption agencies
- Waiver of the 90 day waiting period for the Final Hearing approving adoption
- Waiver of the requirement of the appointment of counsel for an indigent parent
- Waiver of the requirement that the Final Adoption be formalized in this state
Therefore, with a properly drafted Petition for Adoption and with the proper consents and proper service, the step-child adoption can be prosecuted to completion within 90 days of the filing of the Petition. This of course depends upon the docket and the available times with the county Family Court. However, with the applicable waivers above this process can be streamlined and completed in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost and expenses of a general adoption.
THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM - YOUR CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC ADOPTION ATTORNEY
The Step-Child Adoption is a deadline driven process in Family Law that someone should not attempt to navigate without legal counsel by their side. A successful adoption of a step-child will have tremendous emotional and personal value to your family. If you are seeking or would like to pursue adopting your step-child, please seek legal counsel immediately!
If you live in Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Summerville, Moncks Corner, James Island, West Ashley, Folly Beach, North Charleston, Johns Island, Walterboro, or any of the other fine communities of the South Carolina Low Country, do not wait another moment. Act now!! Contact The McMillian Law Firm and scheduled your free Family Law consultation today. 843-900-1306 or email me directly at [email protected]