Stepparent Adoption in North Dakota

Stepparent adoption concept

Stepparent adoption is a means to formalize an existing relationship between a stepparent and a stepchild. There are many benefits to stepparent adoption, including helping the child feel more connected to the new family unit that their parent has created by marrying, and strengthening the bond between the child and the stepparent. 

While stepparent adoptions tend to be less complicated than other types of adoption, there are still procedures that must be followed. 

Adoption Process in North Dakota

Petition for Adoption 

The petition for adoption is relatively straightforward. It must include the names of the stepparent seeking to adopt, his or her spouse, the non-custodial parent, and the child. The petition must also include the child’s place and date of birth and the current residence of the stepparent, custodial parent, and child. 

In addition, the petition must indicate whether the non-custodial parent has consented to the adoption, or state the facts in support of the parent’s consent to the adoption being waived. 

If the parent has not given consent, a stepparent adoption can be pursued on other bases, including “abandonment” by the biological parent.  “Abandonment” in this context has a very specific definition.  A biological parent’s consent is also not required if their parental rights have been terminated by a separate deprivation proceeding.  

If the child being adopted is 10 years old or older, he or she must sign a separate consent document. 

When completed, the petition must be signed and notarized. It must then be filed with the court and served on the non-custodial parent so that he or she has an opportunity to object to the petition or be present at the hearing on the petition.


You must also have the appropriate consent affidavits to proceed with the adoption. Obviously, your spouse who is the child’s legal parent must consent. The child’s non-custodial parent must also either consent to the adoption or there must be another basis for the petition.  Other bases include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • The non-custodial parent has deserted or abandoned the child (as “abandoned” is legally, not commonly, defined)
  • The non-custodial parent’s parental rights to the child have been terminated by a court 
  • The non-custodial parent has been declared incompetent or mentally defective by a court, and the court dispenses with the requirement of their consent

If a non-custodial parent has consented to an adoption he or she may withdraw that consent after a hearing, if withdrawal of the consent is found to be in the child’s best interests. However, a non-custodial parent cannot withdraw consent to an adoption after the court has entered a decree of adoption.

As noted above, if your stepchild is over the age of 10, they must also consent to the adoption. It is important that the child understands that the adoption will terminate their legal relationship with the non-custodial parent and will make the stepparent their legal parent. As with the consent of the non-custodial parent, the court may dispense with the requirement of the child’s consent if it finds that doing so would be in the child’s best interests.


Stepparent adoption involves a brief hearing before the court in which the judge has the opportunity to question the parties regarding the allegations in the petition and confirm consent to the adoption. If there are objections to the adoption, they may be raised at the hearing, but typically, the hearing is a straightforward matter and a mere formality at which the adoption is finalized.

After a Stepparent Adoption

After the adoption is finalized, the stepparent is now the legal parent of the child, with the same rights and responsibilities toward the child as a natural parent. 

In general, stepparent adoption is a positive event that brings a family closer together. However, it should never be undertaken lightly. The adoption terminates the child’s legal relationship not only with the non-custodial parent but with his or her entire family: the child’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. As with other major life changes involving a child, adoption should only be pursued if it will be in the child’s best interests.

If you have questions about stepparent adoption in North Dakota or are interested in adopting your stepchild, please contact Fremstad Law to schedule a consultation.