In Utah, it is fairly common for a new spouse to legally adopt his/her minor stepchildren. If there is no putative father or the non-custodial parent is willing to surrender his parental rights and consent to the adoption, the process is simple.
Adoption cases are not like other family law cases. They are filed with and heard by the judge rather than a domestic court commissioner. In addition, adoption records are sealed and classified as private.
To be eligible to adopt, the adopting parent must be married to the custodial parent and must have lived with the children for at least one year. The adopting parent must also be more than 10 years older than the child.
To initiate adoption proceedings, the adopting parent must file a Petition to Adopt Minor Stepchild, and the custodial parent, non-custodial parent and/or legal guardian must consent to the adoption in writing. The adopting parent must then complete a Criminal History Report through the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification and a Child Abuse History Report through the Division of Child and Family Services. Thereafter, all interested parties will attend a hearing, at which time the judge may ask the parties questions. If all requirements have been met, the judge will sign an Adoption Decree.
The process becomes more complicated when the non-custodial parent refuses to surrender parental rights or objects to the adoption. The parent must then be served with a Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights. The parent will have 30 days from the date of service to intervene in the adoption proceedings. If the party does not intervene, the court will proceed as if the party consented to the adoption. If the party does intervene, the matter will proceed to trial. At trial, the custodial parent and adopting parent will have to establish grounds to terminate the non-custodial parent’s parental rights.