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You don’t need to adopt your stepchild.

T
he Queensland Adoption of Children Act 1964 is coming under review. So far, it looks as if adopting your stepchild will become extremely difficult under the proposed law. There are many arguments as to why this is the wisest approach.

The most compelling argument has been that stepchildren are “not available for adoption”. The stepchild already has a family. The child’s birthparents are his permanent and legal parents.

Adoption is permanent. This is the cause of many problems when a stepdad adopts his stepchild.  The child’s birth certificate will permanently name the stepdad as his father. As an adult, the child may grow to resent this. What if the stepdad then divorces from the child’s mother? Will the stepfather refuse to pay maintenance for a child that is not his? The situation has potential to get messy simply because adoption is such a serious step. Adoption raises questions about a child’s sense of identity. Even if the birthfather is delinquent, it may not be wise to close the door on a child’s biological ties. What begins as an attempt to bring a stepdad closer to his new family, may evolve into a legal and moral mess.

Stepfathers most commonly feel the need to adopt their stepchildren so that he can share the legal rights and responsibilities of being a parent. Fortunately Queensland stepfathers don’t need to go through the process of adoption to achieve this status. A parenting order can be attained much more simply through the family court. This is valid until the child turns 18 and can be amended or rescinded at any time.

Are you adopting your stepchild because you feel they need your care beyond childhood? The child may have specific needs that require you to have an enduring parental relationship. These are the ‘exceptional circumstances’ that are being put under the microscope under the current
Adoption Legislation Review in Queensland.
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