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What are the steps for a step-parent adoption in Ohio? - Dennis B. Dahlberg


The adoption of a child by a stepparent who has been significantly involved in raising the minor child is occurring significantly more often today than in previous years.  In Ohio, a husband and wife jointly, a step-parent, or an unmarried adult may adopt a child.  Under a step-parent adoption, the person seeking to adopt must either be the stepfather or stepmother of the child or the adult that is going to be adopted.

The Court will expect that the adopting parent(s) will be represented by an attorney.  The probate court will appoint an attorney to represent a birth parent when the birth parent is a minor or under legal disability, or upon the request of the birth parent, when the birth parent is appearing before the court to place the child for adoption.

In step-parent, agency, and private adoptions, an adoption assessor investigates the adopting family and prepares a report called a home study. The home study assists the court in determining whether the adopting family is suitable to adopt and whether the adoption is in the best interests of the adoptee.

A probate court will also look to see if consent is necessary from the birth parent or from the child, or adult, to be adopted.  Typically, the legal parents of the minor to be adopted, a child being adopted who is over the age of 12, and an adult adoptee must consent.  At times, however, a birth parent’s consent may not be necessary if he or she falls into a de minimis support category.  According to the Ohio Revised Code, conditions for accepting parent's consent of a minor is not necessary, when it is alleged in the adoption petition and the court, after proper service of notice and hearing, finds by clear and convincing evidence that the parent has failed without justifiable cause to provide more than de minimis contact with the minor or to provide for the maintenance and support of the minor as required by law or judicial decree for a period of at least one year immediately preceding either the filing of the adoption petition or the placement of the minor in the home of the petitioner.

In order to file an adoption, a stepparent should file the petition for adoption in the probate of the county in which the child was born, the person or persons seeking to adopt reside, the agency having custody of the child is located, where the birth parents reside, or the home of record for a person stationed in the military.

The probate court will require the adopting parents and child to appear for the hearing unless the court states otherwise.  If the noncustodial birth parent’s consent is not necessary then the court will hold a hearing to decide if the adoption is in the best interests of the minor child.  If the noncustodial birth parent files an objection per the time set by the court, the court will hold a hearing to determine if his or her consent is necessary for the adoption.

Following the adoption hearing and the court approval of the adoption, the step-parent will then assume all legal rights and responsibilities for the child he or she has adopted.  The minor child will be treated under the law as if he or she were the stepparent’s natural child, and beyond the requirement to financially support the minor child, the minor child will also be able to inherit estate assets from the stepparent as if the stepparent were the child’s actual birth parent.

The entire process typically takes three to four months for a step-parent adoption to be finalized.  Following the finalization of the adoption, the original birth certificate of the child will be changed and a new birth certificate will be issued to reflect the adopting parent(s) names.

If you are considering a stepparent adoption, or if you have been served with notice of a petition to adopt your child by a step-parent, please feel free to contact our office for a free initial consultation to discuss your case matter and options for legal assistance.

- Dennis B. Dahlberg, Esq.