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What to know about step-parent adoption

If you are considering adopting a stepchild, you may have heard some things that are not true -- for example, that a tax credit helps reimburse the costs.

There are also a few other things to know and to keep in mind as you decide whether to pursue step-parent adoption.

Step-parent adoptions do not qualify for a tax credit

People who pursue domestic and international adoptions are eligible for a tax credit of up to $13,460. However, step-parent adoptions are in their own category. If your adoption is for a stepchild, you will not be able to claim the credit. Similarly, if you are adopting your same-sex spouse's biological child whom you have been involved with since the beginning, the tax credit does not apply. The good news is that the costs of step-parent adoption are relatively low.

Being married at least one year helps

If you wait to file for step-parent adoption until you have been married to the child's parent at least one year, there can be benefits. For example, the preplacement home study may be waived. In general, home studies involve background checks, interviews and an assessment of the home's safety. It is not necessary to be a "perfect family." In fact, having gone through struggles together can be a positive in a home study, as it shows that your family has triumphed over adversarial events and is closer to it.

The home study experience should be cooperative. Caseworkers want adoptions to happen, but you should keep in mind that a caseworker will not always recommend that an adoption goes through if he or she thinks it is not in the child's best interest. One example where this might happen is if you have a criminal record.

A lawyer may help the process go more smoothly

It is possible to do a step-parent adoption yourself. However, there are many requirements. An attorney can assist the process to go more smoothly, especially if there are issues with the home study or if one biological parent is hard to contact or is not quite on board with the adoption.

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