May 9th, 2007
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What is the cost of a stepparent adoption? Inquiring minds definitely wish to know! Just about every family who is looking into having a stepparent adoption completed for their family, wants to know just how much of a financial commitment, or burden, they are getting themselves into. Everyone wants to know the bottom line, the final financial blow that the adoption process will be, yet because each adoption is different, as no two cases are the same, the same holds true for the cost of the adoption.

Some states require that you hire a lawyer for the process, which automatically raises the cost of your adoption. Each lawyer has their own fee scale, some charging a set fee, or flat rate, for stepparent adoptions, as long as they are not being contested, while others strictly charge by the hour contested adoption or not. Some states also require that a Guardian Ad Litem be appointed for the child, as well as a home study to be performed as part of the adoption process, again these are all the financial responsibility of the petitioning family. Sometimes you can ask the court to waive the home study as well as the Guardian Ad Litem for the child, which can put quite a large chunk of money back in your wallet.

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There is also the cost of duplicate legal forms that you will need for the adoption process. Marriage certificates, divorce decrees, birth certificates, and/or a death certificate if one of the biological parents has died. Many times lawyers request three sealed, certified copies of each of the forms just listed, which means you will be paying for three copies of each. If you already have copies of the forms, the courts may not require you to get the duplicate copies, which can also save you some money.

There are court filing fees which can range anywhere from $25 all the way to $250 depending on where you live. If you cannot find the non-custodial parent in order to have him or her legally served (again a fee based service) than you will have to pay to have a public notice run in the paper, which can run anywhere from $350-$600 depending on what your local paper charges, how long the notice runs, how long the notice itself is, and how many editions of the paper the notice will be featured in.

If the non-custodial parent will not consent to the adoption, and decides to fight it, that will add time and money into the process. As the case drags on, lawyers fees will pile up, once again adding to the bottom line of the adoption cost. With so many different variables that go into a stepparent adoption, and the rules and fees differing not only from state to state, but county to county within states, giving even a ballpark estimate is not an easy thing to do. For an uncontested stepparent adoption, where everything ran smooth with a streamlined adoption process used in the state, the most common number is roughly $2,500. That is not so much a bottom line that I am giving to you, as more of a minimum, a baseline to go off of. Take that number and then add the two words “and up” and then you will have your ballpark estimate for a stepparent adoption!

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7 Responses to “How Much Does A Stepparent Adoption Cost?”

  1. John says:

    Julie, I am really bothered by the part about if he doesn’t consent (assuming its a dad). Why on earth should it be possible to continue, unless he is abusive, or has abandonded the relationship? This is his child, and the custodial parent already has pretty well forced him out of his child’s life. Surely the custodial parent should not be able to simply blow past him and do the adoption anyhow. I know that the law never worries about fairness, but this is really gross.

    Absent abusive or neglectful parenting, he should always be able to remain his child father, no matter how inconvenient that might be for the custodial parent. Is it really possible to force the adoption is this case?

  2. If the non-custodial parent will not willingly sign over his or her rights, then the custodial parent can still take the matter to court, and try to prove that the non-custodial parent has abused, neglected, or abandoned the child. The court can terminate parental rights, without consent, if they feel that it is in the best interest of the child. Just as when children are removed from their birth home and placed in foster care, while the birth parents may wish to have their children back, if the courts feel that it is a threat to the child to go back to their birth home, they will terminate parental rights and release the child for adoption.

    While an active, involved parent who is not a danger to the child should never be forced from that child’s life, most of the time a contested adoption involved a parent that has abandoned the child, has no interest in being a part of that child’s life, yet refuses to sign over parental rights out of spite, or ill feelings towards the custodial parent. I am sure however, that there are people out there who abuse the way the system is set up and fight to push adoptions through, when a parent should not be taken from the child’s life.

  3. John says:

    It sounds as though the dad gets to come up with a large chunk of change to fight an allegation in court, AND he has to prove that he didn’t abuse or neglect the child. I wonder how you would do that. I wonder how many dads simply have to give up because of the cost.

    The court should have great reluctance to dump the non-custodial parent, because it is rather common for the custodial parent to want the other parent gone. I wonder if there really is judicial reluctance to be a dupe for a vindictive custodial parent. NOW wins again. John

  4. It is not the non-custodial parent who has to prove him, or herself fit…

    It is the custodial parent who must prove that the non-custodial parent is unfit. The burden of proof still lies with the petitioner.

    I am sure though that there are cases where a parent is pushed out of a child’s life due to lack of funds, as well as a vindictive ex.

  5. tdaniella74 says:

    Hi Julie,

    I have a question that I was hoping someone could answer before we even start anything. My ex lives in Europe. We have been divorced for 5 years now. He left my daughter and me and he hasn’t been in touch since. My daughter called quite a few times, I tried to keep the contact between them, however, he hasn’t called once. I have re-married and my present husband would like to adopt my daughter and give her his name. How does the consent process go in a case like this. I don’t even know where he is (only the country) and I know for a fact that even if found, he wouldn’t give consent out of spite. Can we go around? Thank you so much..

    Daniella

  6. Can you contact his family? They may know how to get in touch with him. The fact that he is in a different country may make the process harder. The easiest way to get the adoption done is to have the other parent consent to the adoption. If they cannot be located that a public notice is issued in the paper for roughly 30 days, yet I do not know if that will apply to your situation since you know that the birthfather is out of the country.

    Call a lawyer and ask for a consultation, the first one is usually free. Write down your questions before you go, so that you do not forget anything. He or she will be able to answer your questions about the what the legal process is when one parent is out of the country.

  7. snowchylde says:

    I know this is an old post, but do you know generally if it helps or hurts the process if the child has no father listed on the birth certificate?

    My fiance wants to adopt my daughter (who will be 5) when we get married so I am trying to look into this, and now I am wondering if we actually have to go through this whole process or if I just file some sort of amendment to add him to the certificate to save possibly thousands of dollars. Do you know much about such cases?

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