How to Proceed with an Illinois Stepparent Adoption

stepparent, Aurora family law attorneyBlended families come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds. Some adopt to grow or start their families. Others have divorced and now have one single parent, or two partial or complete sets of parents and stepparents. Then there are those with a stepparent who is filling a gap that was created by an absentee or deceased parent. Though not the child’s biological parent, these stepparents provide a love, acceptance, and support that completes the family. In these instances, a stepparent adoption might be appropriate. Learn how to determine if it might be right for your family, and how you can move forward with the process.

Benefits of Stepparent Adoption

When you are already an active and influential part of a child’s life, it might seem redundant to file for adoption. However, there are some key benefits to stepparent adoption – namely the ability to assert legal rights to the child you already love. This right would allow you to seek parenting time, should your current marriage in divorce. It also gives you the ability to act as legal guardian if your spouse is unable to do so. Some examples of situations in which this might be helpful could include a medical emergency or an accident that leaves your spouse incapacitated.

Stepparent adoption also gives you the legal right to continue parenting a child, just as you always have, should your spouse ever pass away from an injury or illness. Without this, there is a risk that the other biological parent (if alive) could try to assert their rights. If they are successful, your child could be turned over to someone they do not know or remember, or to someone who has hurt them by abusing or neglecting them in the past.

Moving Forward with a Stepparent Adoption

Before a stepparent can adopt a child, there are some requirements that must be met. First, the stepparent must be legally married to the child’s biological mother or father. Second, the absent biological parent’s legal rights must be legally terminated (not required if the absent biological parent is deceased). If the absentee parent is not willing to surrender their rights, the adopting stepparent and their spouse may only proceed if the absentee parent is legally deemed as an “unfit” parent. Unfortunately, it is not easy to establish parental unfitness. One or more statutory grounds must be satisfied, such as:

  • Child abandonment;
  • Statutory neglect;
  • Failure to show interest in the child within the first 30 days of birth;
  • Failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest in the child;
  • Failure to demonstrate a reasonable level of concern for the child’s well-being;
  • Evidence of severe or repeated abuse;
  • Failure to provide support when reasonably able to do so;
  • Deserting a child for three months or longer prior to the adoption process; or
  • Any other willful neglect, abuse, or abandonment the court considers relevant.

Our Illinois Family Law Attorneys Can Help with Your Stepparent Adoption

Though one of the simplest and most common forms of adoption, stepparent adoption has its own set of complexities and obstacles. At our law firm, we understand these nuances, and we can help your family move forward with the stepparent adoption process. Committed to the best interest of the child you love, we can even aid with the establishment of an unfit parent to ensure that their well-being is protected. Contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney for a confidential consultation today to learn more.



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