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b2ap3_thumbnail_adoption_20200716-210037_1.jpgA 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 very 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 family law attorney 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 wellbeing
  • 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.

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IL custody lawyerA child’s well-being should be the top priority for parents going through a divorce. They should want their child to have everything they need throughout the stages of their life. However, often one parent can be substandard in their compliance with the parenting plan agreed upon with their former partner.

After a while of trying to get a co-parent to show up for visitations, send support payments, or just call to talk to a child, they may give up and choose to have a new partner - the child’s stepparent - adopt the little one.

Stepparents adopting their stepchild is not uncommon especially when a biological parent:

  • Is abusive
  • Is an alcoholic or a drug addict
  • Does not show up to scheduled visitations
  • Does not financially support a child
  • Is convicted of a crime that will see them in prison for a long period of time
  • Abandons their child

Being married to the primary decision-maker of the child can give a step-parent some rights, but they are still limited in their own decision-making because there is no biological relationship to the child. If an adoption occurs, the stepparent can then be included in major life choices for the minor including school plans, financial responsibility, and medical procedures.

Each state has a different process when a step-parent wants to adopt a stepchild. Also, each case is sensitive to each particular family since everyone has a different situation they are living through. The state of Illinois requires a step-parent to be a resident of the state for six months before filing for adoption. This is because the adoption will go through a family court locally so no one needs to travel for any reason. After that, the process should take three months to complete.

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Posted on in Family Law

Illinois divorce lawyerThere are many ways to add a child to your family. Some couples conceive and birth biological children while others adopt children from the foster system, through private adoptions, and from other countries. When an individual with children marries, whether for the first time or after a divorce, his or her spouse may adopt the children and become their legal stepparent. This is known as a stepparent adoption.

A Child Cannot Have Three Legal Parents

One of the most important points to understand about stepparent adoption is that a child cannot have three legal parents. Although many children and adults refer to a parent’s spouse as their stepparent, a stepparent only has legal rights to a child if he or she completes the stepparent adoption process, which is only possible if the child’s other biological parent voluntarily gave up his or her parental rights or if these rights were terminated by the court. Otherwise, a parent’s spouse can build a strong relationship with a child, but without the legal rights that come with being an actual parent.

When a biological parent voluntarily terminates his or her parental rights, he or she no longer has any right to parenting time with the child. He or she also cannot be required to pay child support, nor can he or she seek child support from the child’s other parent.

Completing the Stepparent Adoption Process

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