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Asked in Chicago, IL Nov. 07, 2013 ,  3 answers Visitors: 28
My wife wants to change my stepdaughters last name to mine. What process do I have to go through for this?
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3 Answers

Anonymous
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Posted on / Nov. 11, 2013 04:04:27

changing a name won't guarantee you custody if something were to happen to your wife. You would have to adopt your step-daughter if you wanted to guarantee custody. To change a name you would have to file a petition with the court, give good reasons for the name change and you would have to notify the father of the petition and the court date the your get for hearing in court.

Anonymous
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Posted on / Nov. 07, 2013 19:11:23

Attorney Gordon is correct that a name change will not grant you any rights with regard to your stepdaughter. The only way to assure that you have any legal rights is to proceed with an adoption. Based on the information you have provided, it does not seem that this will be terribly complicated.

The adoption process in Cook County, as in most counties, begins with the filing of a Petition for Adoption. This document sets forth the facts of your particular situation including information about the prospective adoptive parents (Petitioners), the child or children to be adopted, and the biological parent or parents. It is important that all the information in the Petition for Adoption be accurate as this is the 'blueprint' for everything that follows.

Procedures in Cook County require setting up a date and time for a court hearing on the filed Petiton for Adoption which is done by contacting the adoption coordinator at the Daley Center. Each case, when filed, is assigned a particular Calendar, and the hearing needs to be set on the day that that Calendar is heard.

There are many details that need to be addressed even in a non-contested, related adoption. The parental rights of the biological parent or parents who are relinquishing their rights must be done correctly (whether by a signed consent, service on the person(s) and subsequent default if they do not respond. There is also a requirement for any non-biological Petitioner to submit fingerprint results and CANTS Clearances aspart of the process.

It would be best if you consulted with an attorney whose practice concentrates in adoption law, as mine does, to decide what your next steps would be.

Anonymous
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Posted on / Nov. 07, 2013 18:50:38

Changing her last name in and of itself will not afford you any additional rights. It sounds like what you are really asking about is a step-parent adoption. Your first step should be to find an attorney who specializes in Adoption in your state. Consider finding an attorney through the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys - www.adoptionattorneys.org. Is your step-daughter a US citizen? If so, when a U.S. citizen adopts a U.S. citizen child living in the United States, this is a domestic adoption, regardless of the citizenship of her legal parent. It also means that this case would fall outside The Hague Convention on Protection of Children & Cooperation in Respect to Intercountry Adoptions, which governs international adoptions between countries who are signatories to this treaty.
You will next have to find out where the biological father stands with respect to his rights under your state’s adoption law. He may be considered a biological father or a legal father. There are different criteria depending on their legal status. In Georgia, legal fathers are ones who were married to the birthmother or acknowledged paternity (got their names on the birth certificate), but you should consult with an attorney to find out what the criteria is in your state.
In most states, it is easier to have the rights of a biological father terminated. Usually, the biological father’s rights can be terminated without written consent after notice is given and he does not respond for a certain period of time.
If either father is determined to be a legal father, however, check with your lawyer about having his rights terminated on the grounds of abandonment. In Georgia, if legal fathers have not communicated, supported and seen their children in over a year, then the courts here can terminate their rights based on abandonment. Again, you should ask your lawyer if there is a similar statute in your state.
The other option is to find the biological father and ask if he is willing to sign over his parental rights to your step-daughter. Even if her biological father is out of the country, if he is willing to sign over his parental rights to your step-daughter, the step-parent adoption can usually be approved in court. The key is to make sure that the father is given proper notice. If he is out of the country, you want to make sure that you choose an attorney who has experience in serving birth parents internationally, as other laws and treaties often apply to this process. My office handles these cases regularly. If we can be of assistance, do not hesitate to call us at (770) 642-6075.
The most important thing you can give your step-daughter is her complete medical history. Above all else, try to get a complete history from her natural father - you never know what the future brings, and if you completely lose touch with him in the future, this may be very helpful to have.
Once the biological father’s rights have been determined, you can go forward with the step-parent adoption and terminate any rights he may have. After the completion of the adoption, the biological father will no longer have any rights to the child and will not be liable for any future child support.
Also, in terms of your fear that your wife may be deported, have you considered filing a family petition for her? If you are a U.S. citizen, she may be eligible to receive immigration benefits based on your marriage. I would highly suggest that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney to find out your options. Additionally, if your step-daughter does not already have immigration benefits here, then you can consider filing a step-parent petition with USCIS. My office also handles these cases, or you can find a list of other experienced immigration attorneys through http://www.ailalawyer.com/.

Good luck!

I hope you found this answer helpful and if so, please let me know by clicking the "Mark as Helpful" button at the bottom of this answer. It’s easy and appreciated

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