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Adopting your stepchild: Where to start

You love your family -- and you don't draw any distinction between your biological children and your stepchild.

Unfortunately, that's not how the world sees your relationship. You find yourself frustrated whenever someone refers to you as "just the stepparent." It comes up on school papers, in doctor's offices and other places.

Is stepparent adoption a solution? Maybe -- but you need to step into this process very carefully. Here are a few things you need to consider:

1. What do the biological parents say?

You need to approach your spouse about the possibility of an adoption and make certain that they're on board with your plan before you do anything else.

If they are, you need to address the issue of the other parent's feelings. If the other parent is deceased or absent, this may not be an issue. If the other parent is alive and around, you will either need their permission or a good reason to justify terminating their parental rights.

2. How does your stepchild feel?

This is important. Don't assume that just because their biological parent is out of the picture your stepchild will be okay with the adoption. Some children may feel that agreeing to the adoption is a betrayal -- particularly when a parent is deceased.

Even when their other parent is unfit or uninvolved, some children may feel a strong sense of identity with extended relatives -- especially grandparents -- that they don't want to disrupt.

3. Do you have an attorney?

Adopting a stepchild can be a complicated process. You want to get everything right to minimize any stress for yourself, your spouse and your child. A family law attorney can help you overcome the legal hurdles involved with adoption.

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