Parental rights: can my ex-wife's boyfriend adopt my son?

My ex-wife wants our son to be adopted by her live-in boyfriend. What is the best thing for me to do? Do I have to give up my parental rights?

In Wisconsin, the stepparent must be married to the birth parent in order to adopt, and in those instances, the parental rights of the other birth parent must first be terminated.

If your child’s mother marries her boyfriend and wants him to adopt your child, you must consent to the termination of parental rights before the new husband can adopt. It is called a stepparent adoption, and it does not affect the mother’s parental rights in any way. As a parent, she consents to the adoption of the child by her husband.

In determining the best thing to do, ask yourself whether your son sees you as the father or the other man as his father, and think about what is the best plan for the child. If there is a support order, the termination of your parental rights will terminate any child support due in the future, but it will not forgive any past support that is owing.

If your child’s mother remains unmarried, her boyfriend cannot adopt your son. And in most cases courts will not terminate your parental rights if there is no one to "stand in your shoes" legally with support and other obligations for the child. Occasionally, parental rights may be terminated by the courts without consent from the parent. If you are concerned your rights may be terminated against your wishes, you should consult with a qualified family law attorney.

For more information on family law in Wisconsin, contact Ellen Frantz at 608-784-5678.

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