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Understanding stepparent adoption in Ohio

For married Ohio couples in a blended family situation or a same-sex marriage, stepparent adoption may be the solution to questions surrounding the legal status of the child(ren) living with them. The Ohio State Bar Association reminds couples that while stepparent adoption can be a wonderful, loving decision, it also is serious and permanent.

When a nonbiological "parent" of an Ohio child is married to the biological mother or father of that child, such stepparent can adopt the child. The procedure is relatively simple and inexpensive in most cases.

Stepparent adoption procedure

The person seeking to adopt files a petition for adoption in the court of common pleas in the county where he or she resides, where the biological parent resides, or where the child resides. The petition must include basic information about both the child and the person wishing to adopt him or her. Some Ohio counties also require a supplemental petition giving additional information. Each county has its own requirements, filing fee and procedures.

The petition must be served upon the other biological parent, giving him or her notice of its filing and of the date of the adoption hearing. In most cases, the other biological parent must consent to the adoption, but there are exceptions to this rule. If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the other parent has unjustifiably failed to communicate with and/or support the child for one year prior to the filing of the petition, consent is not necessary. It is likewise not necessary where a juvenile court has terminated such parental rights.

Same-sex couples

As Equality Ohio points out, prior to the June 26, 2015, ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in , only one parent in an Ohio same-sex marriage had any rights to the child(ren) of the couple. That landmark decision changed everything and married same-sex Ohio couples, too, can now enjoy the benefits of stepparent adoption.

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