Terminating Parental Rights and Step-parent Adoption - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 7 Old 01-30-2010, 02:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Okay I'm in need of some advice and well as any possible information as to how to get through this process.

My eldest daughter, who has just turned 9, has not seen or heard from her biological father since she was barely 2 years old. And before that it was basically no contact between 2mo. and her 2nd birthday. He has never paid a dime in child support, although there has been an order in place since she was 10months old. She knows who he is, from me, and what he looks like but has never had any type of relationship at all with him.

In addition, I have recently found out that he's in jail now in Florida (we live in Arizona) for Child Abuse of all things and that he's not even eligible to get out for a few more years.

My fiance and I are going to be married soon, and he has asked my daughter if she would like him to adopt her. He's helped raise her for the last 3 years and she's called him daddy almost that long. Needless to say she said yes.

My question is, am I entitled to have her biological father's right's terminated without his permission? I know that the rights must be terminated or signed over in order for my fiance to adopt her.

The other part to this question is once the parental rights are terminated, what are the steps (and if anyone would know how much it will cost that would be an added bonus) needed to do for him to adopt her and change her last name?
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#2 of 7 Old 01-30-2010, 04:16 PM
 
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It depends on the laws of the state you reside in. In my state you can have someone's parental rights terminated if you can show that they have had no contact and provided no support to the child in the last year. I would contact a local attorney regarding the laws of you state. Good Luck

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Mom-type to DSS 10/12/03, Mom to DS 10/05/06 and DD 11/03/08.
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#3 of 7 Old 01-31-2010, 02:43 PM
 
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I think it depends on which state you are in. But bravo for your family! My DH and I got a quick marriage simply TO do the stepparent adoption, since my 4yo and 21mos old's father wanted to sign his rights over (and in this case...a very good thing..as he is an abusive alcoholic whom my son is terrified of). It went very smoothly but cost us about $4500 with the lawyer doing it. And that was with everyone in agreement. I'd get an appointment with a lawyer and ask how expensive and what steps you should take. You should be able to terminate rights as "abandonment" is what has happened here. I'm sure he'll be notified but since he hasn't paid or seen his daughter at all, proving that he hasn't abandoned her will be next to nil.

Keep us posted, adoption is the most wonderful thing that has happened in our family. My children call DH their daddy and are very very attached and it just became final in December (we filed in August). So it does take a few months to process.

Mommy to four under age 4!
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#4 of 7 Old 01-31-2010, 03:27 PM
 
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I had a detailed post that got eaten, so I'm going to chime in briefly:

An involuntary TPR is doable, on grounds such as abandonment or failure to assume parental duties. Each state has its specific process and grounds--here in WI, I did an involuntary TPR pending adoption (by grandparents; Mom was deceased) on a biological father who had never met his daughter (Mom and dad had a single encounter and were never in a relationship), so we did both the above grounds. All we had was a name. We had to send notice to his last known address (which we didn't have, so we couldn't do--we did some cursory digging but didn't have to pay a PI to track him down or anything; it's unlikely he even knew his daughter existed) and publish notice in a newspaper serving that location (which is what we did do). The judge considered all of this, interviewed the daughter (who was 14 and thus legally got a say) and a guardian ad litem (GAL) (appointed to represent her interests), would have interviewed Dad if he'd showed (to give him a chance to explain why retaining his rights would be in the girl's best interest), and provisionally terminated Dad's rights, subject to a 30-day appeal period. (Your daughter's father would be served in prison, and may be asked to testify by phone.)

We came back after the appeal period (not surprisingly, Dad did not appeal) and the TPR was finalized, and the adoption proceeded that day as well.

As for costs, or a relatively uncomplicated TPR and adoption, I'd probably ask for a $1,500 retainer (my rate is $180/hour--family law attorneys can cost between $125-$300 an hour or more), and, if the process stayed uncomplicated, I probably wouldn't exceed the retainer (though, say, if bio-dad showed up and started making hay, it could get expensive quickly). There'd also be the cost of filing the court action ($10-$100, depending on the court), service of process or publication of notice (free to several hundred dollars, depending on whether you can just get a friend to drop off papers versus having to pay a process server or publish one or more notices in a newspaper) home studies (stepparent adoption home visits are pretty basic or waived altogether in some states, so costs can be anywhere from nothing to several hundred dollars; the assumption is that the stepparent already lives with the kids anyway, and is married to the biological parent, so it's not like a whole lot would change at home if the adoption was granted); GAL fees ($450 retainer in my local court); revised birth certificate ($40); miscellaneous charges for postage, faxing, long distance, etc. So, a few grand, give or take.

Best of luck!

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#5 of 7 Old 02-01-2010, 12:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks for those tips.....

is it really necessary to go through a lawyer for this? just out of curiousity because there is no way in well you get the picture we could even begin to afford such a thing. I believe I had read somewhere online that I can file the petition to have his rights stripped for Free and I believe that once we're married we can change her name, its the actual "adobtion" itself we're really unsure of how to accomplish because all of the sites I've found only talk about regular adoption not step-parent adoption.

thanks for the advice so far though its much appreciated
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#6 of 7 Old 02-01-2010, 01:54 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AZMotherofTwo View Post
thanks for those tips.....

is it really necessary to go through a lawyer for this? just out of curiousity because there is no way in well you get the picture we could even begin to afford such a thing. I believe I had read somewhere online that I can file the petition to have his rights stripped for Free and I believe that once we're married we can change her name, its the actual "adobtion" itself we're really unsure of how to accomplish because all of the sites I've found only talk about regular adoption not step-parent adoption.

thanks for the advice so far though its much appreciated

I can't speak for Arizona; here in WI it is technically possible to do it without a lawyer. The courts have self-help packets and checklists. It's not easy, though. A good place to start would be your court clerk--they can't give legal advice but they can usually direct you to forms, processes, and if necessary, low-cost legal help (such as the "pro-se clinics" my law school runs--you can stop by and get a free consult with a student, supervised by an attorney).

Some states won't let you do the TPR until there's a stepparent ready to adopt, so you may have to wait until you are married to do so. The name change can be effected at the time of the adoption, or independently of it (but, again, you may need bio-dad's permission if it's done when he's still legally her father--or, at least, you may need to attempt to get his permission--so it might be easier to just do it all at once, because he won't have a say if it's done at the adoption).

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#7 of 7 Old 02-02-2010, 06:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtoLawyer View Post
Some states won't let you do the TPR until there's a stepparent ready to adopt, so you may have to wait until you are married to do so. The name change can be effected at the time of the adoption, or independently of it (but, again, you may need bio-dad's permission if it's done when he's still legally her father--or, at least, you may need to attempt to get his permission--so it might be easier to just do it all at once, because he won't have a say if it's done at the adoption).
Yes of course, we were planning on doing it once we're married within the next couple of months. As for the bio-father, he's been completely absent from her life since she was 2, so for the last 7 years and barely a speck before that so he's no issue. We're planning to have his rights revoked first.
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