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 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....