Before starting the adoption process, it’s important to consider that this is the very best course of action for your unique situation. Adopting a stepchild can be a beautiful event and will change the course of the future for many people involved. It’s not something to enter into lightly. The child involved will experience monumental changes. His/her last name will change, and he/she will permanently sever any legal ties to that other side of the biological family. But how much does stepchild adoption cost?
It’s possible you would want to consider legal guardianship instead. Legal guardianship will likely not be as costly, and does give the stepparent legal rights to give medical consent, input for education concerns, along with an expectancy to provide food, shelter, and clothing. Again, adopting a stepchild will bring about tremendous change in the lives of all involved. If you are ready for that change, it’s prudent to also be prepared for some of the financial expenses.
Representation and The Biological Parent
You will want to consider whether you will need to hire your own attorney or if you want to represent yourself. If the other biological parent will be uncooperative, you will probably want to hire your own. If the other biological parent is truly absent from your child’s life or is deceased, you might be okay to represent yourself.
You will want to be cautious when trying to prove to the court that the other parent is absent. You have to prove that you have done due diligence to find this person. In some cases, you can also place a missing persons notification in a public newspaper to prove that this parent can not be located and that you have exhausted efforts to find this person.
A lawyer can be appointed by the court to represent your child, if that’s what you choose. Keep in mind, though, that even though the lawyer is court-appointed, there may be a fee involved. If you choose to hire a private attorney, the costs may vary substantially. Overall, the cost of stepchild adoption can vary state to state and ranges from $700-$3,500.
You need to file a petition for adoption in the municipality where you and the child to be adopted reside. The filing fee ranges by state and can cost anywhere between $20 and $300.The petition itself is somewhat detailed and courts are specific about how they want the documentation. If any of the information is missing or incorrectly filed, it may result in the delay of your paperwork.
You may ask the clerk at your local courthouse if they can offer you a fill in the blank stepparent adoption form. The fee would be nominal (around $10) for this form. If you believe you will need more assistance than that, you may look online for a Stepparent Adoption Kit. This service ranges from $27 to $325 and you may be able to choose the services you want to receive in an a la carte manner.
Be prepared to pay some other fees. There may be a cost for a social worker to visit your home to conduct a home study. Some cases may require more than one visit. The cost can range from $500-$800 for each visit, however, it is possible to ask the court to waive this requirement in the case of a stepchild adoption.
Be prepared to pay a nominal fee for a criminal history check (around $20, but can vary).
The court may also ask you to attend family counseling. The cost for counseling can vary, but you may have some control there. Family counseling may be a wise investment even if the court does not order it as your whole family will be undergoing a drastic change.
Last, but not least, (and maybe the most exciting part!): prepare to pay a small fee (around $25 depending on your state) for a new birth certificate! This one will probably bring a tear of joy to your eye since this means that you have crossed the threshold. This seemingly insignificant piece of paper is legal proof that this child now belongs to the stepparent who has chosen to proceed with this option out of the deep love he or she has for this child. If you reach this step, allow me to be the first to congratulate you and wish you the very best. I, too, have been adopted, and I can tell you what a wonderful thing it is to be the recipient of that sacrificial love.