Connecticut Stepparent Adoptions: Is a Home Study Required?

Posted by on Dec 11, 2013 in Adoption, Family Law

baby stroller“Stepparent adoption” is the term used to describe adoptions in which a child’s legal parent marries a person who wishes to assume legal and financial responsibility of the spouse’s child.  In Connecticut, this person may be a same sex spouse.

If you are interested, I have written more extensively previously about what second parent adoptions are and when and why legally same sex married couples in Connecticut should strongly consider adopting their children.  I have also discussed that adoptions are court orders, which all states are required to recognize under the Full Faith and Credit Clause.  As a result, an adoption by an “LGBT parent should be recognized in every state, even if that state’s own laws would not have allowed the adoption to take place.”  Meghan Freed has written here about why the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause requires all states recognize out-of-state adoptions, but not out-of-state marriages.

Now we turn to the next question: Does Connecticut require a home study for stepparent adoptions, just as it does for other adoptions?

Connecticut General Statutes § 45a-727(b)  requires the Probate Court, when it receives an adoption petition, to ask the Department of Children and Families (or its contractor) to investigate and submit a written report to the court, in duplicate, within 60 days.  This is commonly referred to as the “home study.”  The report must indicate the physical and mental status of the child and also contain facts that may be relevant to determine whether the proposed adoption is in the child’s best interests.  For example, it  must include information on (1) the child’s physical, mental, genetic, and educational history, and (2) the physical, mental, social, and financial condition of the parties to the agreement and, if they are known, the biological parents of the child.

There is one exception to CGS § 45a-727(b)’s home study requirement, however.  Under CGS § 45a-733(a):

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 45a-727, in the case of a child sought to be adopted by a stepparent, the Court of Probate may waive all requirements of notice to the Commissioner of Children and Families and shall waive, unless good cause is shown for an investigation and report, all requirements for investigation and report by the Commissioner of Children and Families or by a child-placing agency. Upon receipt of the application and agreement, the Court of Probate may set a day for a hearing upon the agreement and shall give reasonable notice of the hearing to the parties to the agreement and to the child, if over twelve years of age.

In other words,when a step-parent wants to adopt, “unless good cause is shown,” the law requires the Probate Court to waive all requirements for a home study.  The Probate Court’s Rules of Procedure make it clear that this step-parent waiver applies to couples in same-sex marriages pursuing a second parent adoption.  Connecticut Probate Court Rules of Procedure § 40.12, “Adoption by Same Sex Married Couple.”

If is important to note that although the Probate Court often waives the home study, the court will order one when if finds “good cause” to do so — either upon review of the application or later at the hearing.  Specifically, under CGS § 45a-733(b):

at the hearing the court may deny the application, enter a final decree approving the adoption if it is satisfied that the adoption is in the best interests of the child, or, for good cause shown, order an investigation by the Commissioner of Children and Families or a child-placing agency.