As a stepparent, you love your stepchild like your own. You feel thrilled to be part of their life. You already live together all of the time because the child’s parent — your new spouse — has sole custody.

And yet, you still feel like you want something more. You want to solidify that relationship and show the child just how much they mean to you. You want to adopt them.

Is it the right move? The answer is different for every family. You need to consider this move carefully and ask all of the right questions. A few important ones include:

Will the other parent agree to the adoption?

Your spouse may have full custody, but that does not mean that the other parent has no rights. That is his or her child, too. Your role as a stepparent does not change that. You cannot legally adopt the child without having the other parent sign away their own parental rights. This can be done through a waiver of those rights or through legal consent. Either way, you need them to agree or it won’t happen.

Are you ready for the responsibility?

Adopting a child isn’t just about loving them or enjoying the time you spend together. Don’t do this just because the two of you are buddies right now and it feels fun and exciting. Adoption is about a very real responsibility that you’ll have for the child. That’s true at any age, no matter how your relationship changes. It’s a legal, emotional and financial responsibility. You must be ready for that before moving forward.

What does the child want?

If the child is old enough, talk to them about what they want. Never assume anything. Never push it on them. Just have an open and honest conversation. Tell them what you’d like to do and ask them how they’d feel about that. Make them a participant in the process.

Can you afford it?

Finances matter when starting a family. Can you actually afford this? While you’re not looking at the massive fees that you see with a more traditional adoption, you usually spend a few thousand dollars. And that doesn’t even take into account any of the financial costs you’ll take on in the future — doctors’ bills, school tuition, the cost of food and housing, etc. Granted, you may already find yourself paying for these things in your current position as a stepparent, but consider any possible changes.

The process

If this is something you really want to do, you should know that it’s a complex legal process. Make sure you understand exactly what steps to take in Sugar Land.