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Adopting a Minor Stepchild

Attention! This webpage includes information and forms for the adoption of a minor child by a stepparent. Its primary focus is on procedures when everyone involved is in agreement and cooperating. It does not include information or forms for litigating the adoption. It does not include information or forms for other types of adoptions, such as adoptions through an agency, adoptions by other family members, or adoptions of an adult.


Talk to an attorney

Adopting a stepchild can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to go over your options. One way to talk to an attorney is to visit a free legal clinic. Clinics provide general legal information and give brief legal advice. For more information, please see our webpage on Finding Legal Help.


Utah Adoption Act

An adoption case is not like other civil cases. The Utah Adoption Act creates special procedures for adoptions. This webpage describes those procedures, but if there is a difference between this website and the statutes, the statutes govern.


Privacy

Adoption cases eventually are sealed, and, until they are sealed, they are classified as "private" records. This means that while the case is pending and for 6 months after the decree, the parties can see and copy the records, but the public cannot. Six months after the decree the paper records are physically sealed and the electronic records are specially classified so that no one can access the records without a court order. For more information, see Utah Code Section 78B-6-141 and our webpage on Non-public Court Records.


Summary

Before adopting a stepchild:

  • the adopting parent must be married to the adoptee's custodial parent;
  • the adopting parent or the adopting parent's spouse must be at least 10 years older than the adoptee; and
  • the adoptee must have lived with the custodial parent and the stepparent for one year (can be waived by the judge).

If everyone who must consent to the adoption does so, and if everyone who has the right to notice of the adoption and the right to intervene waives those rights, then the procedures for adopting a stepchild are relatively simple:

  • File the required documents.
  • Attend the hearing that is scheduled.
  • Answer the judge's questions and sign the required documents at the hearing.
  • The judge will sign the Adoption Decree.

If someone who must consent does not, or if someone who has the right to notice and the right to intervene does not waive those rights, then there are additional steps:

  • That person must be served with Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights.
  • They must be allowed 30 days in which to file a motion to intervene. The motion to intervene is beyond the scope of this webpage.
  • If a motion to intervene is not filed, then the adoption can proceed to a hearing after the requirements for a default judgment have been met. For more information, please see our webpage on Default Judgments.
  • If the motion to intervene is denied, they have the right to appeal. The denial of a motion to intervene and its appeal are beyond the scope of this webpage.
  • If the motion to intervene is granted, they have the right to present evidence at the hearing why adoption is not in the adoptee's best interests. If the Intervenor is the adoptee's parent, they have the right to present evidence why their parental rights should not be terminated. The approval of a motion to intervene and the litigation that follows are beyond the scope of this webpage.

Who must consent to the adoption?

The following people must consent to the adoption or be served with Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights:

  • adopting parent's spouse (Unless they join in the petition. Our forms presume that the adopting parent's spouse is a co-petitioner.)
  • the adoptee (The person being adopted, but only if they are 12 or older.)
  • the adoptee's non-custodial parent
  • the adoptee's court-appointed guardian (But only if the order appointing the guardian expressly gives the guardian the right to consent to the child's adoption.)

Who must waive their rights to notice and to intervene?

The following people must waive their right to notice of the adoption and their right to intervene or be served with Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights: (They do not have the right to consent.)

  • the adoptee's court-appointed guardian (If the order appointing the guardian does not expressly give the guardian the right to consent to the child's adoption.)
  • the adoptee's custodian
  • the adoptee's spouse

What do the consent and waiver forms mean?

Each person who signs a Consent to Adoption and Waiver of Rights agrees to the adoption, waives their right to notice of the adoption, and waives their right to intervene. Most important, a non-custodial parent who signs a Consent to Adoption and Waiver of Rights consents to the termination of their parental rights in the adoptee. Although the adoption is not a Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights, it has the same effect of terminating the parental rights of the non-custodial parent.

Each person who signs a Waiver of Rights waives their right to notice of the adoption and their right to intervene.


How do I get the person's consent or waiver of rights?

If a person who must consent or who has the right to notice and the right to intervene is in agreement and cooperating, simply give them the correct consent or waiver form to complete and sign. They should return the completed and signed document to the Petitioner to file with the adoption petition.

The Consent to Adoption and Waiver of Rights forms for the adoptee, the adoptee's non-custodial parent, and the adoptee's guardian are different. Be sure to give each person the correct form. There is a different Waiver of Rights form for a person who has only the right to notice and the right to intervene, but not the right to consent.

If someone is not willing to consent or waive their rights, they must be served with Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights. For more information, please see the section below, "Adopting a stepchild without everyone's consent or waiver of rights".


What documents must be filed?

This section describes the documents and reports that must be filed with the court. The forms are in the "Forms" section.

  • Civil Coversheet
  • Petition to Adopt a Minor Stepchild
  • Consent to Adoption and Waiver of Rights from everyone who must consent:
    • adopting parent's spouse (unless they join in the petition)
    • the adoptee (the person being adopted, but only if they are 12 or older)
    • the adoptee's non-custodial father, if the adoptee’s step-father is adopting
    • the adoptee’s birth mother, if the adoptee’s step-mother is adopting
    • the adoptee's court-appointed guardian (but only if the order appointing the guardian expressly gives the guardian the right to consent to the child's adoption)
  • Waiver of Rights from everyone who is has the right to notice and to intervene, but who does not have the right to consent:
    • the adoptee's court-appointed guardian (if the order appointing the guardian does not expressly give the guardian the right to consent to the child's adoption)
    • the adoptee's custodian
    • the adoptee's spouse
  • Proof of Service of Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights
    • If a person who must consent does not or if a person who has the right to notice and the right to intervene does not waive those rights, they must be served with Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights. File proof of that service with the court.
  • Report of Adoption
    • This report contains information about the adoptee and the adopting parent. The Petitioner should complete this form and give it to the judicial services representative, who will complete the certification section after the Adoption Decree is signed. The judicial services representative will send the form to the Office of Vital Records and Statistics (health.utah.gov). If the adoptee was born in Utah, the Office of Vital Records and Statistics will provide to the child's parents information about how to obtain a new birth certificate. If the adoptee was born in a state other than Utah, the Office of Vital Records and Statistics will send the Report of Adoption to the proper registration authority in the state of birth. To obtain a new birth certificate from another state, the parents should contact that registration authority.
  • Criminal History Report
  • Child Abuse History Report
  • Report of Paternity Search from the Office of Vital Records and Statistics (if you do not know the identity of the adoptee's father)
    • If you do not know the identity of the stepchild's father, you must obtain a Report of Paternity Search from the Office of Vital Records and Statistics and file it with the court. To get the report, the Office of Vital Records and Statistics requires that you first file the petition with the court, have a copy of the petition stamped with the filing date and certified by the judicial services representative as a true copy. Then you must personally deliver the date-stamped, certified copy of the petition and show government issued picture identification to the Adoption Specialist with the Office of Vital Records and Statistics (silver.health.utah.gov). That office will run the paternity search and provide you with a Report of Paternity Search which you must then file with the court before the hearing. The Office of Vital Records and Statistics charges a fee for the report.
  • Certificate of Readiness
    • This form tells the court that everything is complete and ready for the hearing. If a person has to be served with Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights, the Certificate of readiness cannot be filed until 30 days after the notice was served and the person has not filed a motion to intervene. The Petitioner must also first follow the requirements for a Default Judgment.
    • If a person intervenes, there will be a period of time for disclosure and discovery of information between the parties before the case goes to trial. Those procedures are beyond the scope of this webpage.

How long does it take to complete the adoption?

When all of the required documents are filed, the judicial services representative will schedule a hearing at the earliest convenient time. If someone has to be served with Notice of Petition to Adopt and Right to Intervene, the court must wait at least 30 days after service before holding a hearing. If a person intervenes, there will be a period of time for disclosure and discovery of information between the parties before the case goes to trial. Those procedures are beyond the scope of this webpage.


What happens at the hearing?

If all of the necessary documents are filed and all of the statutory requirements are met, the adopting parent, the custodial parent, and the child being adopted appear before the judge. Others may attend the hearing. The judge might ask questions, but the hearing is not a trial. The adopting parent signs the Adoption Agreement. The judge signs the Adoption Decree.


Sealed Adoption Records

The records in the case will be sealed 6 months after the Adoption Decree is signed. Even after the records are sealed, an adopting parent or an adult adoptee may get a certified copy of the adoption decree upon request and presentation of positive identification, but it is simpler to get any necessary certified copies during the 6-month period before the records are sealed.

Adoption records remain sealed for 100 years after the decree, unless the court orders that they be unsealed for good cause and if the reasons for disclosure outweigh the reasons for non-disclosure.


Report of Adoption; New Birth Certificate

Once the Adoption Decree is signed the judicial services representative will complete the certification section on the Report of Adoption form and send the form to the Office of Vital Records and Statistics (health.utah.gov). If the adoptee was born in Utah, the Office of Vital Records and Statistics will provide to the child's parents information about how to obtain a new birth certificate. If the adoptee was born in a state other than Utah, the Office of Vital Records and Statistics will send the Report of Adoption to the proper registration authority in the state of birth. To obtain a new birth certificate from another state, the parents should contact that registration authority.


Registration in the Utah Mutual-Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry

Certain people can get some identifying information from the Mutual-Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry. For more information, contact the Office of Vital Records and Statistics (health.utah.gov).


Health Information Registry

Certain people can get some health, genetic and social information from the Health Information Registry. For more information, contact the Office of Vital Records and Statistics (health.utah.gov).


Adopting a stepchild without everyone's consent or waiver of rights


Who can intervene and oppose the adoption?

Any person entitled to notice of the proceedings can intervene and oppose the adoption. This includes all people identified in Utah Code Section 78B-6-110 who must consent (See "Who must consent to the adoption?" above) and all people identified as having the right to notice of the proceedings, but not the right to consent. (See "Who must waive their rights to notice and to intervene?" above) Intervention is a conditional right, and the Petitioner can oppose someone's motion to intervene. For more information, please see Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 24 and Utah Code Section 78B-6-110 and Section 78B-6-141.

If a motion to intervene is granted, there will be a period of time for disclosure and discovery of information between the parties before the case goes to trial. At the trial, the judge will consider evidence of grounds to terminate the parent's rights (if intervention is by a parent) and who, based on the child's bests interests, should have custody. For more information, please see Utah Code Section 78B-6-133.

What do I do if someone does not consent or waive their rights?

If someone who must consent does not, or if someone who has the right to notice and the right to intervene does not waive those rights, have that person served with the correct Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights.

Do not serve the Petition or any of its attachments. Complete and serve the form titled "Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights."

How do I serve the Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights?

The Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights and the method of serving it are different depending on whether the person has the right to consent or only the right to notice and the right to intervene. The adoptee, the adoptee's parents and sometimes the adoptee's guardian have the right to consent. The adoptee's spouse, the adoptee's custodian and sometimes the adoptee's guardian have only the right to notice and the right to intervene.

Have the correct Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights served like a civil complaint under Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 4 on the adoptee, the adoptee's noncustodial parent and the adoptee's guardian if the guardian has the right to consent. File Proof of Service with the court. For more information, see our webpage on Serving Papers.

Serve the correct Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights on the adoptee's spouse, the adoptee's custodian and the adoptee's guardian if the guardian does not have the right to consent by certified mail, return receipt requested. File Proof of Service with the court.

What happens if a person is served with a Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights form but does not file a motion to intervene?

If a person does not file a motion to intervene within 30 days after being served with Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights, the person has defaulted. This means that the case can proceed to a hearing as if the person had consented to the adoption and waived their rights. However, the Petitioner must first follow the procedures for asking for a default judgment. For more information, please see our webpage on Default Judgments.

What happens if a person files a motion to intervene?

If a person files a motion to intervene, the Petitioner has the opportunity to file a statement and memorandum opposing the motion. The judge will read the motion, the documents supporting it, and the documents opposing it. The judge might hold a hearing. After considering all of the evidence and legal arguments, the judge will grant or deny the motion.

What happens if the judge denies the motion to intervene?

If the judge denies the motion to intervene, the person has 30 days from the order in which to file a notice of appeal. For more information, please see our webpage on Appeals. If the person files a notice of appeal, they may also ask the district court or the Court of Appeals to stay the district court proceedings. If the request for a stay is granted, the district court proceedings must wait until the Court of Appeals rules on the appeal.

What happens if the judge grants the motion to intervene?

If the judge grants the motion to intervene, the person who intervenes is treated as a full party to the case. There will be a period of time for disclosure and discovery of information between the parties before the case goes to trial. Those procedures are beyond the scope of this webpage.

What happens at the trial?

If the judge grants a motion to intervene, the court will hold a trial at which the parties will present evidence about whether adoption is in the adoptee's best interest. If the person who intervenes is the adoptee's non-custodial parent, the parties will also present evidence about whether there are grounds to terminate the person's parental rights. For more information, please see Utah Code Section 78B-6-133.

What are the reasons to terminate a parent's rights?

Under Section 78B-6-112(5), the court may terminate a person's parental rights in a child if:

  • the person signs a voluntary consent to adoption or relinquishment for adoption under Utah law (For more information, see our webpage on Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights.);
  • the person signs a voluntary irrevocable consent to adoption or relinquishment for adoption under the laws of another state or country;
  • the person is an unmarried biological father who is not entitled to consent to adoption or relinquishment for adoption;
  • the person received notice of the adoption and failed to file a motion to intervene within 30 days;
  • the person is not the parent of the child; or
  • the person's parental rights are terminated on grounds described in Title 78A, Chapter 6, Part 5, Termination of Parental Rights Act.

If a parent files a motion to intervene and opposes the adoption, the only reason for terminating parental rights likely to apply is the last. Under Section 78A-6-507 of the Termination of Parental Rights Act, the district court may terminate a person's parental rights if:

  • the parent has abandoned the child;
  • the parent has neglected or abused the child;
  • the parent is unfit or incompetent; or
  • only token efforts have been made by the parent to support or communicate with the child; to prevent neglect of the child; to eliminate the risk of serious harm to the child; or to avoid being an unfit parent.

If there are grounds to terminate parental rights, the court will order that those rights terminated. If there are no grounds to terminate the person's parental rights, the court will deny the Petition to Adopt, conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine who should have custody of the child, and award custody of the child based on child's best interests. Section 78B-6-133.


Adopting a stepchild if you cannot find someone who has the right to consent or the right to notice

If you know the identity of someone who must be served with Notice of Petition to Adopt and Right to Intervene, but you cannot find them to serve them after at least two attempts, you can ask the judge to order service by alternative means. If service is by publication, the judge will designate the content of the notice regarding the identity of the parties. For more information, please see our webpage on Alternative Service and Utah Code Section 78B-6-110. However, use the forms on this webpage. Alternative service in an adoption is different from alternative service in other civil cases.


Adopting a stepchild if you do not know the identity of the child's father

If you do not know the identity of the stepchild's father, you must obtain a Report of Paternity Search from the Office of Vital Records and Statistics and file it with the court. To get the report, the Office of Vital Records and Statistics requires that you first file the petition with the court, have a copy of the petition stamped with the filing date and certified by the judicial services representative as a true copy. Then you must personally deliver the date-stamped, certified copy of your petition and show government issued picture identification to the Adoption Specialist with the Office of Vital Records and Statistics (silver.health.utah.gov). That office will run the paternity search and provide you with a Report of Paternity Search which you must then file with the court before the hearing. The Office of Vital Records and Statistics charges a fee for the report.


Forms (Some forms do not apply in all cases)


Forms for Adopting a Minor Stepchild

  • Checklist for Adopting a Minor Stepchild - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Civil Coversheet - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Petition to Adopt a Minor Stepchild - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Adoptee's Consent to Adoption and Waiver of Rights (if applicable) - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Non-custodial Father's Consent to Adoption and Waiver of Rights (if applicable) - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Non-custodial Birth Mother's Consent to Adoption and Waiver of Rights (if applicable) - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Guardian's Consent to Adoption and Waiver of Rights (if applicable) - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Waiver of Rights from Adoptee's Guardian, Custodian or Spouse (if applicable) - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Report of Adoption for the Office of Vital Records and Statistics - PDF Document PDF
  • Report of Criminal History from the Bureau of Criminal Identification. To request this report, complete an Application for Criminal History Record - PDF Document PDF (publicsafety.utah.gov)
  • Report of Child Abuse History from the Division of Child and Family Services. To request this report, complete an Informed Consent and Release of Liability - PDF Document PDF (hsdcfs.state.ut.us)
  • Report of Paternity Search from the Office of Vital Records and Statistics (if you do not know the identity of the child's father). To request this report see the Adoption Specialist with the Office of Vital Records and Statistics (silver.health.utah.gov) and the summary of the process in the "What documents must be filed?" section.
  • Certificate of Readiness for Adoption Hearing - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Adoption Agreement - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Adoption Decree - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word

Forms for Serving Notice

  • Checklist for Serving Notice - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights (Persons with Right to Consent) - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights (Persons without Right to Consent) - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Proof of Service of Notice of Petition to Adopt and Right to Intervene - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word

Forms to Request Alternative Service of Notice

  • Checklist for Alternative Service Notice Request - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Ex Parte Motion for Alternative Service - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Statement Supporting Motion for Alternative service - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Request to Submit for Decision - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Order on Ex Parte Motion for Alternative Service - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Notice of Adoption and Notice of Rights (for publication) - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Proof of Alternative Service - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word

Forms for Default Judgment


Related Information



Page Last Modified: 5/30/2013
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