Schuitmaker introduces bill to remove barriers to stepparent adoptions

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation to improve the process of stepparent adoptions passed out of the Senate Committee on Judiciary Tuesday.

Senate Bill 458, introduced by state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, would address the duplicitous process of custody trials in stepparent adoptions that was upheld in a recent court decision.

“All too often we see this scenario,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Even though a parent has no contact with their child, the parent with physical custody is forced to go through the complicated court proceedings — twice — in order for their new spouse to adopt the child. We should not be punishing those who have been abandoned; this legislation would simplify the process of stepparent adoptions and ensure these children have the opportunity to be raised in a loving family.”

A recent Kent County Circuit Court case terminated a father’s rights after the father had not financially supported or had contact with the child in several years. This allowed the stepfather the 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 are often expensive and time-consuming,” Schuitmaker said. “Requiring two separate trials means additional burdens are placed on both families and the court system. Eliminating this additional step will save valuable time and resources.”

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.

SB 458 is now before the full Senate for consideration.