Stepparent adoption involves the adoption of a spouse's child or children who are not biologically related to the adoptive parent but also not legally bound to him or her by marriage. It's more common for this adoption to be of a male stepparent than a female stepparent, however, there is no discrimination between the two.
Depending on the state in which the adoption takes place, stepparent adoptions may not require a home study nor do they require a criminal background check. The noncustodial parent, if living and providing some sort of child support must terminate his or her parental rights to the children in order for the adoptive stepparent to finalize the adoption.
The adoption process is relatively quick, usually only taking between four to six weeks to finalize once a petition for adoption is submitted. Grandparent and extended family may be granted visitation rights, depending on the adoption negotiations.
A child over the age of 12 must consent to the adoption, which, if he or she has a strong relationship to his or her noncustodial parent can be a very tough decision to make at the risk of disappointing or hurting the other parent.
Stepparents adopt children as a way to bring the family closer together, enable the child to receive legal benefits from the adopting parent as well as qualifying the child as a benefactor of the stepparent in the event of his or her death.