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mellowcat

Adoption by Step-father with recent domestic abuse arrest

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My sis in law is widowed with 2 girls and now recently married to someone she met online and who the family is concerned about. She and he have been married about 8 months and she has started the adoption process for him to adopt her kids. She also has cancer again and it seems to be terminal this time. She has alienated most of her family due to the fact that most of us were skeptical of the new husband and so we only get limited information about their lives. Recently we found out that her new husband started choking her while she was asleep in the living room and her girls had to help her fight him off. She pressed charges and he went to jail for 3 days but then she went back with him and has probably dropped charges bc he said it was his medication and he doesn't remember anything. Whew. So my questions are:

Can the adoption still go forward normally?

Or is there an automatic waiting period when something like that happens?

Can it be contested after the fact if we learn that her illness was affecting her decisions to let him adopt? Ex. If she has brain cancer and is not in her right mind.

Can it be contested now and if so by whom?

Before she met and married this man she asked my husband and I to take her girls if she ever died but now she is wanting this relative stranger to raise her kids if she dies. We are all concerned that this guy is not a good and stable person. There have been red flags from the beginning and now the choking incident is added to the situation. It's just surreal. And she is not acting like her normal self either.

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What your husband and his family think about his sister's new husband is irrelevant.  What is relevant is what your sister-in-law thinks, and whether she is mentally competent to make decisions concerning the adoption of her kids.  As a matter of law, she is mentally competent until there's a court order that says she's not.

 

If you have reason to believe that the kids' stepfather presents a threat to their health and/or safety while in his care, you should report your concerns to a caseworker at Child Protective Services (or the equivalent authority) in the parish where the kids reside.  Only CPS has the legal standing to intervene in the adoption process.  If there are "red flags" you will have to be specific about what those flags are.  Whether the choking incident you mention is sufficient cause to halt the adoption would depend on the totality of circumstances surrounding the incident, of which we here know nothing.  Also, note that what you consider "stable" might not correspond exactly to what a mental health professional would consider "stable."

 

I can't speak to Louisiana law in particular, but in many if not most states it is no longer possible for the victim of domestic violence to unilaterally "drop charges" against the offender, for reasons that should be obvious.  Generally, that call is now made by the prosecutor.  Just FYI.

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Thanks so much for the information. The red flags are that he has lied about several things including his mental illness. We don't really have any evidence we could present in court which is why I was hoping the choking incident would automatically halt the adoption at least for a while so that we can try to talk to her and get more information and hopefully allow her to recover before making the decision to proceed with the adoption or not.

Wouldn't CPS have been informed of the choking incident by the police?

Is it possible to find out if charges were dropped by the prosecutor? Is that public information?

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This response is NOT intended to create an attorney-client

relationship.

 

If the child/children are old enough, the social worker investigating

will interview the child/children concerning their relationship

with their step-father.

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Someone at the police station can tell you whether you can obtain a copy of the incident report and if so, how to go about getting it.  (But if CPS was contacted your SIL would know, so why not ask her?)  Either way, there's no reason for you not to contact CPS yourself to report your legitimate concerns.

 

People lie about lots of stuff for a variety of reasons.  Whether your SIL's husband's lies are relevant to the adoption depends on what he's lying about, and who he's lying to.  There's no legal requirement for him to tell the truth about anything to you or any other member of his wife's family.  He's presumably already being treated for his mental health issues, the details of which are the business only of himself, his wife and the professionals involved in his treatment.

 

Bottom line, it's not your or your husband's family's place to interfere with the already intricate and tricky process of adoption.  In my opinion, your time and efforts would be much better spent by getting on your sister-in-law's side and accepting her husband into the family with an open mind (the alternative hasn't worked, has it?) so that in the unfortunate event that she dies, you'll be in a much better position to maintain contact with the kids.

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Can the adoption still go forward normally?

Or is there an automatic waiting period when something like that happens?

 

I'm not sure what you mean by "normally" and "something like that."  Certainly nothing in your post suggests that the same process used with any other adoption application won't be followed.  If you're asking whether the domestic violence report will be considered, it is almost certain that it will.

 

 

 

Can it be contested after the fact if we learn that her illness was affecting her decisions to let him adopt? Ex. If she has brain cancer and is not in her right mind.

 

I have very little doubt that your sister's cancer played a significant role in her decision to seek the adoption, and that's hardly surprising.  If, for some reason, she lacks the necessary legal capacity to consent to an adoption, that likely will come out during the interviews that come with any adoption.  More importantly, however, if you believe she is so far gone that her mental capacity is questionable, you ought to be consulting with an attorney now about seeking a conservatorship or adult guardianship.

 

 

 

Can it be contested now and if so by whom?

 

Generally speaking, the only person who can contest a stepparent adoption is the parent whose rights will be terminated against his/her will.  In your sister-in-law's case, that means the children's father, whom you oddly did not mention at all in your post.

 

 

 

The red flags are that he has lied about several things including his mental illness. We don't really have any evidence we could present in court

 

So....who exactly has diagnosed him with a "mental illness"?  Or are you just playing amateur psychologist here?

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My goal is to find out what we can and cannot do in this situation. And my ultimate goal is for the kids to be in a safe and happy home.

My SIL told her parents that he is bipolar and on medication just recently.

Her first husband and the father of her 2 girls died 3 years ago.

We have tried to maintain a relationship with all of them but it's been tough. My SIL married this guy within 3 months of meeting him online and when her siblings tried reaching out to her just to talk she pulled away and married him. Other extended family members were much more vocal about their concerns with this guy and her not really knowing him well enough to marry him, move to another city and have him co-parent two girls. That all played a part in her pulling away.

Now that her cancer has returned and he choked her she is a little more open to communicating with her family.

I appreciate everyone's help. I, as an in-law, am just trying to fact find and will pass this info on to my husband and his family. There are a lot of emotions going on and a lot of denial about the whole situation and I feel like it's the least I can do to help.

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My family is facing a similar situation in Texas with the exception of parental abuse. In our case, my sister died from cancer while she was married to her new husband of two years. Her 11 year old daughter lived with her and her husband during her illness and at the time of her death.  Three months ago, my sister passed away and the child, who has since turned 12 years of age, still lives with him. Her stepfather claims that he intends to file for adoption but the child's biological father states he has not been notified of any adoption proceedings. The biological father is willing to work with us, my sister's oldest daughter who is 23 years of age and with me, to help us have her come live with us. We all live in the same city in Texas.

 

My question is: How can we go about finding out if he has started adoption proceedings and how can we stop those proceedings from going forward?

 

Let me say here that we do not have the $3000 - $4000 needed to hire an attorney and we do not want to call the police to have her forcibly removed from his home. We are all in mourning and we truly want to do what is best for her but we have unsubstantiated concerns over her well being living with him alone in his home. No Last Will was left with instructions on how we should proceed, there is no inheritance of any kind, and for all we know my sister did  not give him authority to adopt her child. We know this because her eldest daughter and I were the primary caregivers during her illness and in her final days. We are both nurses.

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In message boards such as this, it's always better to start a new topic than tack your issue on the end of an old one.  But never mind, the moderator will probably break this apart and start a new topic for you.

 

Until step-Dad files his petition for adoption there are no adoption proceedings, so no reason for bio-Dad to be notified.  When the action is filed he will be properly served with notice, and it will then be up to him (not you or anyone else) to contest the adoption.  If he contests, the adoption cannot go forward without compelling evidence that he's an unfit parent -- something that's difficult to produce and even more difficult to prove -- in order to have his parental rights terminated against his will.

 

Note that when a child's parent dies, sole legal and physical custody passes to the other parent by operation of law (i.e., automatically) so there's nothing to prevent bio-Dad from taking possession of his daughter now.  Of course he should be (and probably is) mindful of the emotional trauma that could result from uprooting her from familiar surroundings at this unfortunate time.

 

The adoption process is tricky in the best of circumstances, and a contested adoption is even trickier.  In the probable event that step-Dad files, bio-Dad really needs to consult a local family law attorney who specializes in adoptions for information and guidance.  Perhaps other family members can chip in to help.

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"Let me say here that we ... we do not want to call the police to have her forcibly removed from his home."
 

Well, that's good, esp. since you've stated nothing to indicate you've legal standing to do any such thing.  Why is this even contemplated such that it needs saying?  Rhetorical.  Yikes.

 

"The biological father is willing to work with us, my sister's oldest daughter who is 23 years of age and with me, to help us have her come live with us."

OK.  I'll interpret this as meaning that he has nothing to do with his daughter beyond, possibly (though you don't even mention) child support.

 

Presumably, if the "unsubstantiated concerns" were relevant and of note, you wouldn't hesitate to do the right thing and contact social services.

I can't imagine why she'd necessarily tell you about the existence of a will, since I suspect she knows how you feel about her husband.

It's unclear what your present goal is, but I'd focus on the observation of mourning and let things percolate.

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I'm not sure why the biolgical father is doing nothing to

obtain physical custody of his child. Does the biological

father know that the child's mother passed away? Have

you ascertained the biological father's intentions? Sadly,

maybe the biologcal father is not interested in acting

like a father for his own child? 

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