When you're a stepparent, one of the things you might be interested in doing is adopting your partner's child. While this isn't always possible, it may be in the case that the child doesn't have a father or mother or in the case that the other parent is willing to give up his or her legal rights. The noncustodial parent, if he or she is alive, must consent to the adoption if he or she still has legal rights to the child.
Remember, if you choose to adopt your partner's child, the father or mother no longer has an obligation to pay child support once the parental rights are terminated. The child also loses the right to inheritance from the biological parent who gave up his or her rights unless he or she adds the child to a will or trust.
In many states, you need to obtain a written consent from the noncustodial parent to be able to adopt your stepchild. Sometimes, you won't need the consent, like in the case that the court already terminated the parent's rights. It's in your best interests to speak with your attorney about your specific situation, so you make sure to ask the right questions, fill out the correct documents and do the adoption by the books.
If the noncustodial parent won't consent to the adoption, you might still be able to obtain permission if you can show that the parent isn't fit to care for the child or that he or she has abandoned the child for a significant period of time. It's up to the court, at that point, to decide if the adoption can proceed. Your attorney can help you apply for the adoption if the court terminates the other parent's rights.
Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Stepparent Adoption," accessed Nov. 14, 2017