To no small degree, most stepparents in Missouri living with their underage stepchildren already fulfill many aspects of a traditional parenting role. They likely have an emotional relationship with their stepchild that involves them providing nurturing support and possibly also discipline. They also spend many or most days with their stepchildren. Missouri state law also makes them financially responsible for the child’s well-being, to a certain degree.
However, stepparents do not technically have the same responsibilities and rights that a parent does. The need to solidify someone’s rights in relation to their stepchildren is often the primary motivation for a stepparent adoption. There are many benefits derived from creating a formal legal relationship between stepparent and stepchild, not just between the child’s parent and their stepparent.
Family changes may cut out stepparents later
Stepparents may assume that their relationship with their stepchildren has protection under the law, but that isn’t always the case. The unfortunate truth about a stepparent’s relationship with their stepchild is that they don’t typically have much protection under state law.
If they divorce the parent of the child or if their spouse dies, they may not be able to continue living with and providing care for their stepchild. The child may end up living with the other parent or extended family members.
Formal adoption gives a stepparent all of the same rights as a biological parent. If there is a disruption to the family unit, they can request parenting time or retain custody of their stepchild so that they don’t have to go live with a parent that does not currently have a relationship with them.
Stepparent adoption gives children stability
The legal protection a stepparent enjoys is only one of the important considerations regarding stepparent adoptions. The impact on the children in the family should also be a primary consideration.
Children often feel more secure and stable both financially and socially when they have a stepparent willing to adopt them and ensure that their needs are met, especially if they have lost a parent to abandonment or death. They may also feel more ambitious about the future when they know they will have two parents to love and support them, no matter what.
Recognizing the significant value derived from stepparent adoption may motivate adults to change their relationship with a young member of their family. Seeking legal guidance to learn more is generally a good first step forward.