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What if the birth parent withholds consent?

In a stepparent adoption, both birth parents must give their consent to the adoption. Sometimes this is an issue because if the birth parent consents, the birth parent is affirmatively surrendering their parental rights. The birth parent also gives up all of their parental obligations (except for possible inheritances by the child). If the parent gives their consent, then no problem, you can proceed with the adoption. But if the birth parent withholds consent, there are ways you can try to terminate their rights.

There are three ways to terminate parental rights over a child:

  • Prove the birth parent abandoned their child.
  • Establish the birth parent is unfit to raise the child.
  • Prove that the father is not the birth parent.

Abandonment requires you to establish that the birth parent does not communicate or provide financial support to the child. This option is completely unavailable if the another parent participates in the child's life.

You can establish that the another parent is unfit if you submit evidence of abuse, neglect, mental disturbances, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, incarceration, or other issues that would interfere with their ability to nurture the child responsibly. The court conducts a hearing to evaluate the parent.

Finally, if you can prove that the father is not biologically related to the child, you can terminate parental rights. Various complicated issues arise depending on the relationship between the father and mother at the time of the birth, how the father acknowledges parentage and other issues.

If you are trying to adopt your stepchild and the birth parent is withholding his or her consent, you should consult with a lawyer to review your options. As you can see, seeking a termination is complicated, so you do not want to pursue it without legal advice or assistance. A lawyer can go over the various methods and help you identify the best ways to seek a termination.