In a step-parent adoption, the custodial parent petitions the Court to terminate the other parent's rights either through consent of that parent or through a trial. If the non-custodial parent cannot be found or refuses to consent, it is still possible for a court to grant the termination and adoption so long as the other parent is properly notified of the proceedings. In this instance, the non-custodial parent must be notified of the termination and adoption proceedings and be provided an opportunity to object. If he /she does not object, the termination of his/her rights will be granted and the adoption will be allowed to proceed if it is in the best interest of the child. If the non-custodial parent objects to the termination of his / her rights so that step-parent can adopt, then the outcome is specific to each case and will require a contested hearing or trial in which the custodial parent has the burden of proving why the other parent's rights should be terminated. There are other alternatives to litigation, such as changing the child's name to reflect the step-parent's last name or waiting until the child becomes an adult thus not requiring the non-custodial parent's consent.
We represent step-parents in step-parent adoptions and have handled cases where the non-custodial parent refuses to participate in the case or objects (making it a contested step-parent) as well as consensual cases.