stepparent adoption

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Stepparent adoption is the legal, formal adoption of a child by a stepparent who is married to a legal parent of that child. Stepparent adoption is the most common type of adoption in the United States, with conditions such as voluntary relinquishment of parental rights by the child's non-custodial parent, death or disappearance of that parent, or termination of parental rights of the biological parent by the court in cases where there is evidence of abuse or neglect of the child. Specifically, a court may terminate the rights of a biological parent for abandonment if the parent has not been involved in the child's life. In most states, abandonment is based on a lack of contact between the parent and the child for at least one year.

In California, for example, “stepparent adoption” means an adoption of a child by a stepparent where one birth parent retains custody and control of the child. 

[Last updated in September of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]