In Illinois, it is possible for you to become your spouse’s child’s legal parent by adopting him or her after you marry his or her parent. This is known as a stepparent adoption. Stepparent adoptions, like other types of adoption, are covered under a state law known the The Adoption Act.
Adopting your spouse’s child involves a very different process than adopting a child through an agency or a private adoption and in most cases, it is a much easier process to complete. If the child’s other parent is involved in his or her life, he or she must consent to the adoption. Additionally, there are certain obligations that you must fulfill to complete the process.
The Stepparent Adoption Process
The stepparent adoption process can take as little as 30 days if all parties cooperate with the court. Unlike other types of adoption, a home study is not usually required to complete a stepparent adoption.
The child’s other parent must be notified of the adoption. If his or her whereabouts are not known, a notification of the adoption is mailed to his or her most recent address. If the parent consents to the adoption, his or her parental rights are then terminated. If he or she does not consent, the court may determine whether or not he or she is fit to keep parental rights and whether an adoption is in the child’s best interests.
Potential Stepparent Adoption Issues
If your spouse’s child is 14 years old or older, he or she may veto the adoption. In fact, the stepparent adoption of an adolescent is only valid if the child consents to the adoption in front of a judge.
The child’s other parent may also block the adoption, as the law recognizes the legal parental rights regarding the child of, at most, two individuals. Since a stepparent adoption seeks to grant full parental rights to the stepparent, the child’s other parent must consent to relinquish his or her parental rights. If the other parent has been determined to be unfit according to Illinois’ Juvenile Court Act, the adoption may proceed without his or her consent. Statutory grounds for such a determination include the following:
- Physical abuse;
- Failure to take a significant interest in the child, either through financial support or social contact, within 30 days of the child’s birth;
- Failure to protect the child from any dangers or hazards in the child’s environment;
- Desertion of the child for three months or longer before the adoption; and
- Neglect of the child.
If you and your spouse choose to end your marriage after you have adopted your stepchild, you have the right to seek custody or visitation with the child. The factors considered when determining a stepparent’s custody or visitation rights are slightly different than those used to determine a biological parent’s visitation or custody agreement. Rather than looking at the adult’s ability to provide a household and financial support for the child, the court primarily considers the relationship the child and the stepparent have built since the child’s adoption.
Family Attorneys in DuPage County
Contact Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. at (877) 889-4515 to discuss your rights as a stepparent and learn more about how to proceed with a stepparent adoption with one of our firm’s knowledgeable DuPage County family law attorneys. Start your relationship with your stepchild on the right foot by learning more about your role in his or her life.