Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that we see a scenario in which a parent has little if any contact with a child, provides little if any support, and in many ways is detrimental to the child’s well-being and development.
At the same time, if a parent who has custody remarries, the process to get their new spouse adoption rights is bogged down by time-consuming, inefficient court proceedings, which ultimately end up hurting the child.
I introduced Senate Bill 458 to combat this problem, as we should not be punishing children who have been abandoned by a biological parent. This legislation would simplify the process of stepparent adoptions and ensure these children have the opportunity to be raised in a loving family.
SB 458 allows a parent’s new spouse to petition the court to adopt the child. The court may then issue an order terminating the rights of the other parent if he or she has failed to provide support for the child and failed to visit or contact the child for two years or more.
This legislation would also provide that when a $0.00 support order is issued, it can be treated in the same manner as if no support order had been entered when determining if a parent is meeting his or her obligations to the child.
In a recent case out of Kent County, the circuit court terminated a father’s rights after the father had not financially supported or had contact with his child in several years. This allowed the stepfather an opportunity to adopt the child. The Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court then reversed that decision, stating that sole custody must be awarded first in order for a stepparent to adopt.
Judicial proceedings generally do not move forward very quickly. Requiring two separate trials, one to grant sole custody to the biological parent and another to allow the stepparent to adopt the child, can be a very complicated, time-consuming and expensive process.
Eliminating the additional step in the process will greatly improve the efficiency of our system and save parents and our court systems valuable time and resources.
The bill was recently voted out of the full Senate and now moves to the House to await consideration.