Michigan Laws Regarding Adoption & Divorce

by Heather Frances J.D. Google
Adoption can cement an emotional family bond.

Adoption can cement an emotional family bond.

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Children often bond tightly with their new stepparents, although they might find it difficult at first to accept your new spouse after you divorce and remarry. Your new spouse may wish to adopt your child to help strengthen the bond, and Michigan permits this type of adoption. However, your ex-spouse must either give up his parental rights or have those rights terminated by the court before your new spouse can adopt the child.

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Ex-spouse Rights

A child cannot have three legal parents (you, your ex-spouse and your new spouse), so your ex-spouse’s parental rights must end before your new spouse can step in to claim legal parental rights. In Michigan, a divorced biological parent cannot ask the court to terminate his rights, so your ex-spouse cannot petition to have his own rights terminated to avoid paying child support -- or even to allow your new spouse to adopt your child. Instead, the stepparent seeking the adoption must initiate the adoption process and termination of your ex-spouse’s parental rights.

Adoption Process

The stepparent adoption process begins when you and your new spouse file a petition asking the court to allow your spouse to adopt your child. You must notify your ex-spouse about the case and your intent to terminate his parental rights, usually by serving him with a copy of the petition and notice of the date for the termination hearing. Children who are 14 years of age and older must consent to the adoption.

Termination Hearing

If your ex-spouse is willing to terminate his rights, the adoption process is a simple procedure and your ex-spouse can indicate his consent to the court at the termination hearing. His answers must convince the court that his consent was not coerced. You cannot gain his consent by offering to pay him. However, if your ex-spouse contests the adoption, he can present his case to the court at the termination hearing. The court will consider whether your ex-spouse has provided any financial support for the child. Michigan law allows the court to terminate the parental rights of a parent who has not financially supported his child and has not contacted or communicated with the child.

Finalizing the Adoption

Once your ex-spouse either relinquishes his rights or they are terminated, the Michigan court can enter an Order of Adoption, appointing your spouse as the child’s legal parent. Your spouse is now legally obligated to provide for the child and perform all other duties legally required of a parent. He also has all the rights of a parent, and the child’s name and birth certificate can be changed.