Step-Parent Adoption Without a Biological Father

Updated January 30, 2024
4 min read

When a family breaks apart and reforms a new family, questions arise as to whether a step-parent can adopt the biological child of another spouse. Traditionally speaking, adopting a stepchild is one of the easiest forms of adoption. But what happens when there is no father on birth certificate adoption or when the biological father doesn’t give consent?

Can I adopt a child when the biological father is unknown?

There are situations where the biological father is unknown. Step-parent adoption without termination of parental rights is possible under these circumstances. 

The laws vary by state, but step-parent adoption without bio father consent can take place in many situations. 

Abandonment

If the biological father is unknown, many county requirements for adopting a stepchild stipulate you have to prove abandonment. This means you have to prove that the biological father has abandoned their children.

Legally speaking, when a biological father is unknown, the unknown parent is referred to as the non-consenting parents. This isn’t to say that they are refusing to give their consent to adopting a stepchild but simply that they haven’t.

In these situations, you have to prove that the non-consenting parents, in this case, the unknown biological father, have abandoned their child. Abandonment can be proved by showing the biological father has not paid child support or tried to contact the child for a specific time frame.

Time frame

The time frame you must prove for abandonment varies by state. For example, in most states like it is a minimum of one year if the child has been left in the custody of the mother. However, if the child has been left with someone other than a parent, that number drops to just six months for some states.

  • In the State of Florida and Idaho, having no contact and having paid no child support for a minimum of 1 year is grounds for abandonment.
  • In the state of California, having no contact and having paid no child support for 1 year is grounds for abandonment.
  • In the state of New York, North Dakota, and Maine, having no contact for a minimum of six months is grounds for abandonment. 
  • In the state of Oregon and Kansas, having no contact for a minimum of 4 months is grounds for abandonment. 

If you can do this at a hearing, the parental rights of the biological father can be stripped in which case they can no longer interfere with the adoption process. From there, a stepparent can move forward with an adoption certificate as long as the biological mother approves, and the child if they are old enough.

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