The relationship between stepparents and children is many times underestimated, not only by society in general but also by our legal system. A stepparent has no legal custody rights over the stepchild. That is the general rule in most of the states. However, the relationship between a child and stepparent can often be close. Although you may have a very good relationship with your stepchild, and be a very good parent, being married to the biological parent of your stepchild does not automatically make you entitled to parenting rights. Custody and visitation rights are legally reserved for the biological parents. To secure your child custody and visitation rights over your stepchild, there is a process you need to go through to secure your child custody and visitation rights over your stepchild. Adoption is that process.Adoption is the best way to go when you want custody and visitation rights over your stepchild, particularly if you and your spouse opt for a divorce or separation in the future. Your relationship with your stepchild, just like any other parental child relationship, does not have to end after a divorce. To claim custody and visitation rights over your stepchild, it is strongly recommended that you legally adopt him or her.Adopting your stepchild will place you in the shoes of the biological parent, with all financial and legal responsibilities. If the biological parent still has any custody or visitation rights, these will have to be terminated before the adoption is granted. That is why the other biological parent has to always be notified of these proceedings.Stepparent adoption, as in all family law matters, may vary from state to state. In some states, the non-custodial parent’s consent is required before the stepchild can be adopted. However, stepparent adoptions are usually less costly and simpler than other types of adoption. Some state adoption laws require a time limit for the stepparent and the biological parent to be married before an adoption petition can be filed. In such instances, they typically require that you be married for over a year before adoption papers can be filed. A stepparent can acquire custody and visitation rights over his or her stepchild within months. This process is handled by an attorney who will represent you in court. The minor is represented by a district attorney and the other parent is represented either by himself or by a private attorney. The biological parent that you are married to must consent to the adoption in writing. In most adoption proceedings, a home study is required. The home study is conducted by a state social or case worker. This study will include an interview with each parent, and depending on the child’s age, an interview with the child may also be included. A home inspection of the household where the petitioner resides will also be conducted. Once the home study is completed and submitted to the court, the judge will schedule a finalization hearing. In this hearing the judge will interview all the parties involved. Again, if the child is of an age in which he or she shows the capacity to understand what is happening, the court will hear his or her opinion about the adoption. The older the child is, the more likely that the court will consider the child’s preference. If the stepparent is proven to be fit to provide for the child’s best interests, an adoption decree will be issued by the court and the stepparent will become the parent of the child for all legal purposes, including child custody, support and visitation.