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Stepchild adoption: You must meet these requirements

In Germany, stepchild adoption is the most common form of adoption. Anyone who is married or in a registered civil partnership has the option of adopting a stepchild.

What is stepchild adoption?

If you, as a stepfather or stepmother, want to adopt your partner's biological (or adopted) child, this is what is known as stepchild adoption. Stepparents are not related to the partner's biological child and do not automatically have custody rights even after marriage. Only after adoption is the child legally treated like a biological child. This gives the stepfather or mother the same rights and obligations as the birth parent. These include the maintenance obligation and the statutory inheritance law. In the event of adoption, the family name is also entered as the child's maiden name. Stepchild adoption is a decision for life - it is usually irreversible. When the adoption comes into effect, the child's legal relationship with the other birth parent and his / her relatives expires.

What are the reasons for stepchild adoption?

There are various reasons that induce parents to adopt a stepchild. This includes, among other things, that there has been no contact with the biological parent for many years, that the latter has died or is unknown, or that the stepchild should be given the same rights as the couple's biological children through adoption.

What are the requirements for stepchild adoption?

The highest priority in stepchild adoption is the child's best interests. An adoption should only be sought if the living conditions for the child improve as a result. This also means that a parent-child relationship should develop from the adoption. Stepchild adoption must not be used as a means of creating a more intense relationship between child and stepparent. Economic reasons are also not an argument for applying for adoption. The procedure also checks whether the interests of the other biological children have been taken into account. The adoption agency of the youth welfare office is responsible for overseeing this. Here the experts hold talks with parents and children and make house calls to check the requirements.

Having a baby: these options exist

Formally, you must meet the following requirements for stepchild adoption:

  • Anyone who wants to adopt their stepchild must be at least 21 years old.
  • The age difference to the stepchild should not be more than 40 years.
  • The birth parent and stepfather / stepmother must be married to each other or be in a registered civil partnership.
  • The marriage / registered civil partnership should have existed for at least one year.
  • The child must have lived with the applicants for a certain period of time, depending on their age. This is known as the so-called care period.

Where does the application for stepchild adoption have to be submitted?

The youth welfare office in your own place of residence is responsible for adopting the stepchild. Here you can find out more about the procedure and the requirements and get advice from specialists. It is advisable to consult a notary who specializes in family law before contacting the youth welfare office. He is responsible for filing the application and forwards your documents to the family court. If one of the parties involved has a foreign citizenship, the central adoption office at the State Youth Welfare Office is turned on.

Which documents are required for the application?

Anyone wishing to apply for stepchild adoption must provide comprehensive information. The youth welfare office and the notary provide information on which documents are required in detail here. In general, you should have the following ready:

  • Child's birth certificate
  • Extract from the family book
  • Marriage certificate / civil partnership certificate
  • Income tax certificate
  • Certificate of residence for all parties involved
  • Criminal record certificate
  • Medical certificates for applicant and child
  • Court order on custody
  • Notarized consent of the birth parents

Who must consent to stepchild adoption?

For the application for stepchild adoption it is necessary that all parties involved give their consent. That means: the step-parent and the birth parent with whom the child will live AND the birth parent, whose rights expire after adoption, must agree - regardless of the division of custody. In some exceptional cases, this consent can be circumvented, for example if the parent is unknown and could not be located after intensive research. From the age of 14, the child must also give their consent. Once the child has reached the age of majority, the consent of the birth parents is no longer required.

How long does the stepchild adoption process take?

As a rule, the procedure can take six to twelve months to complete. If delays arise (for example, because the other birth parent does not agree), the process can take longer.

Stepchild adoption: will the child find out that they have been adopted?

When it comes to the fact that children want to know their origin, the German law prescribes clear rules: In ยง 2 of the Basic Law it is regulated that every child has the right to know their own ancestry. Therefore, the step-parent must be ready to inform the child about his or her other birth parent and not to disguise his or her origin. After reaching the age of 16, the child can inspect the placement files of the adoption placement office of the youth welfare office. The documents are kept there until their 60th birthday. If you need support in educating your child, you can ask the youth welfare office for advice.

How is stepchild adoption regulated for homosexual couples?

Since 2005, homosexual couples in a registered civil partnership have had the option of adopting their partner's biological child by adopting a stepchild. In 2013, the legal situation was expanded again: Since then, it has been possible for children adopted by one partner as an individual to be adopted by the other (called successive adoption). A ruling by the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) made stepchild adoption more difficult for women who are in a registered civil partnership in 2015. Homosexual women who have given birth through private sperm donation must provide the consent of their birth father for stepchild adoption. The family court wants to make sure that the donor has no interest in legal paternity. Anonymous sperm donation is not affected. It is assumed here that the mother of the donor is not known and that the producer is not interested.