After a divorce, it is natural for parents in Arkansas to sooner or later dust themselves off and seek love again. When they find someone new, that person will be more than a spouse; he or she will also become a stepparent as well.

Many families eventually choose to formalize this relationship through adoption. This can further solidify the relationship between parent and child, and clear up who has parental rights over the child — the stepparent, or the biological parent, who may have been absent from the child’s life for years.

When the parent being replaced does not object, the adoption is uncontested. Most stepparent adoptions are uncontested, but the biological parent must be served notice of the adoption petition and given the chance to contest it. However, in Arkansas a biological parent’s consent to losing his or her parental rights is not required when he or she is considered to have abandoned the child. The state defines abandonment as lacking significant contact or support for at least one year.

Thus, there may be multiple interested parties when a stepparent petitions for adoption. Besides the custodial biological parent and the stepparent, there is the noncustodial biological parent, who may not want to give up his or her parental rights, and may fear losing his or her relationship with the kids. In addition, once a biological parent loses parental rights, all the children’s relatives on that side of the family are considered “legal strangers.”

Anyone involved in a stepparent adoption should speak to a family law attorney as soon as possible.