Stepparent Adoption Can Be a Rewarding Experience
In light of recent numbers showing that remarriage in the United States has reached an all-time high, an increasing number of families are being combined as a result. Many stepparents develop strong emotional relationships with their stepchildren as each becomes accustomed to new role and family dynamics. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the family, some stepparents are interested in more than just establishing a bond with the child; instead, they may seek the recognition and rights as the child’s legal parent through a stepparent adoption.
Stepparent Adoption Requirements
Related adoptions occur frequently in the United States, and stepparent parent adoptions represent the most common form of all adoptions in the country. Generally, the simplicity of a stepparent adoption in Illinois is contingent on three criteria being met:
- The stepparent relationship must be recognized: In order to be considered under the law’s guidelines for a stepparent adoption, the individual seeking the adoption must be legally married to the child’s custodial parent. Adoption is unlikely for stepparents who are married to a non-custodial parent.
- Both biological parents must consent: By virtue of the marriage, consent of the custodial parent is usually implied, and if not, it is easily confirmed. However, the child’s other parent must also agree to the adoption, as the process requires the non-custodial parent to terminate his or her legal parental rights.
- Consent of the child: Once a child has reached age 14, he or she must consent to the stepparent adoption or it will not take place.
Overriding Parental Consent
The process for adopting a stepchild becomes significantly more difficult if the non-custodial parent refuses to terminate parental rights. Only a declaration that the parent is unfit can allow the proceedings to move forward in such a situation. Grounds for finding a parent unfit may include:
- Abandonment or desertion of the child for three months or more;
- Failure to show or maintain interest in the child and his or her well-being;
- Dereliction in paying child support despite having the means; or
- Repeated mental or physical abuse and neglect.
The refusal of consent by a fit biological parent brings the stepparent adoption to a halt, effectively putting the matter to rest.
Help with the Process
With the necessary consent granted and the other criteria in order, a stepparent adoption is able to be completed by the court very quickly, often in as little as 90 days. If you are considering a stepparent adoption in Illinois, an experienced lawyer can help you with the necessary preparations. Contact a qualified family law attorney in Geneva today for an evaluation of your case.