How Can I Adopt My Stepchild in Illinois?

 Posted on August 20, 2023 in Family Law


A person does not need to be a blood relative of a child in order to love and care about him or her. If you married someone who already had a child, it is possible that you have spent a great deal of time getting to know the child and providing for his or her needs. You may even think of the child as if he or she was your own biological offspring. If this situation describes you, you may be wondering what it takes to adopt your stepchild. Stepparent adoptions can sometimes be complicated personally as well as legally. This is why it is a good idea to work with a skilled Illinois stepparent adoption lawyer who has experience handling stepparent adoption cases.

Stepparent Adoption Criteria

Stepparent adoption is a significantly different process than other types of adoption. In many cases, an investigation by the Department of Children and Family Services or background check is not required. In order to qualify for a stepparent adoption, the following criteria must be met:

  • The stepparent is legally married to the child's parent. Boyfriends and girlfriends cannot proceed with a stepparent adoption even if they have been heavily involved in the child's life.
  • If the child is 14 years old or older, he or she must agree to the adoption. Teenagers have the ability to block a stepparent adoption.
  • The parental rights of the child's other parent have been terminated.

According to the law, a child can only have two legal parents. If your stepchild's other parent is still alive, he or she will need to terminate his or her parental rights in order for you to be able to adopt the child.

Reasons for the Termination of Parental Rights

In some cases, a parent may voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights in order to allow a stepparent adoption. However, if the other parent does not consent to the adoption, the process becomes more complicated. If you wish to adopt your stepchild but your child's other parent objects to the adoption, the only way you can adopt the child is by having the other parent's parental rights involuntarily terminated. The court will terminate the parent's rights if it determines that the parent is "unfit." According to Illinois law, a parent may be considered unfit if he or she:

  • Has abused the child physically, sexually, or psychologically
  • Has abandoned or severely neglected the child
  • Has failed to protect the child from danger
  • Has shown a marked disinterest in the child's well-being
  • Has a major substance abuse problem
  • Has certain criminal convictions on his or her record

Once the other parent has terminated his or her parental rights and the child, if old enough, has consented to the adoption, you may file your adoption request in the county circuit court.

The Benefits of Adopting a Stepchild in Illinois

Stepchild adoption is a legal process that holds significant benefits for both the child and the entire family. While the decision to pursue stepchild adoption is deeply personal, understanding its advantages can help families make informed choices that lead to stronger bonds and enhanced well-being. The benefits of stepchild adoptions include the following:

  • Legal Parental Rights and Responsibilities: The stepparent is granted full legal parental rights and responsibilities over the child, ensuring that the child's well-being is safeguarded under the care and protection of their stepparent.
  • Emotional Security and Stability: Stepchild adoption can provide emotional security and stability for the child, offering a sense of permanence and commitment. 
  • Access to Benefits: Stepchild adoption often opens the door to various benefits that the child may not have previously accessed, such as health insurance, inheritance rights, and eligibility for government programs or assistance that requires legal parental status.
  • Legal Decision-Making: Adopting a stepchild grants the stepparent the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the child. This includes choices related to education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and other critical matters that contribute to and significantly impact the child's development.
  • Simplifying Future Legal Matters: Legal parental status through stepchild adoption can simplify future legal matters, such as inheritance and estate planning. It clarifies the child's rightful place within the family structure, reducing potential complexities down the line.

Contact a St. Charles, Illinois Stepparent Adoption Lawyer

If you would like to adopt your stepchild, you may need to gain consent from the child's other parent or have his or her parental rights terminated. For help navigating these complex legal challenges, contact Shaw Sanders, P.C. online or by phone at 630-584-5550 and schedule a free, confidential consultation with a skilled Kane County, Illinois stepparent adoption lawyer to learn how we can help you and your family.9

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