The Process of Adopting Your Stepchild
There are many different circumstances that can lead to a stepparent seeking to adopt their spouse’s child or children. The other birth parent may have passed away or is unable to care for the child. The stepparent and spouse might believe that they can provide a better home and living environment for the child than the other birth parent. Regardless of the circumstances, choosing to adopt a stepchild can be a long and complicated process.
Consent of the Other Birth Parent
If the other birth parent currently has a legal right to their child, consent of that parent is usually required. This can be challenging in many situations. For a stepparent to adopt the child, the birth parent must give up their legal rights as parent first. This can be a very emotional decision to make. However, gaining consent from the other birth parent is possible in cases where the parent understands that they cannot care for the child and wants the child’s best interests protected. If the other birth parent gives up his or her rights to the child, they will no longer be required to pay child support.
In some circumstances, consent of the other birth parent is not required. For example, if the parental rights of the child have already been terminated, consent for this parent is not needed. If the other parent has abandoned his or her child, has not interacted with the child, or paid child support for a long period of time, his or her parental rights can be terminated regardless of consent. Similarly, if the other birth parent is found to be unfit to parent the child by a court, their rights can be terminated. A parent may be considered unfit if they are physically or emotionally abusive to the child, addicted to drugs or alcohol, do not provide a safe living environment for the child, neglects the child’s basic needs, is in prison, or has severe mental health issues that put the child in danger.
Choosing to adopt a child that is not biologically yours is a huge decision to make. If you are considering adopting your spouse’s children there a few questions you should ask yourself first:
- Am I willing to commit to this child’s care and wellbeing?
- Am I financially capable of adding a child to my household?
- Am I emotionally ready to be a parent to this child?
- Do I intend to stay with my current spouse long-term?
- Can I provide a safe, clean, and loving environment for the child to grow up in?
In the state of Illinois, a child aged 14 or older must agree or consent to being adopted by a stepparent unless there are specific circumstances that make this unnecessary or impossible.
Contact a Lawyer
If you are considering adopting your stepchild, contact a Geneva family law attorney. Call 630-232-9700 to discuss your case with a member of our team today. We are ready to help you provide the best possible future for your stepchild.