When you marry someone, you are also marrying their family. The conventional way to start a family is to get married and then have children together, but in many cases, couples choose to get married after one or both spouses already have children. Whether from a previous marriage or not, your new spouse’s child is now a part of your family. Depending on the situation, you may have the option of officially adopting your spouse’s child.
Adopting a Stepchild
These situations are known as related adoptions or stepparent adoptions, and in these cases, the legal process is generally easier than in an agency adoption where neither parent is related to the child. In order to go through with adopting your partner’s child, you need to be legally married. A child cannot have three legal parents in Illinois, so the child’s other parent will need to give up his or her parental rights. If the other parent cannot be found or is unknown, the court will issue a notice to be published in a local newspaper alerting the other parent of legal action to terminate their parental rights.
If the other parent does object to letting go of their parental rights, the court may still allow the adoption if they are proved to be an unfit parent. The grounds for being considered an unfit parent include abandonment of the child, lack of interest in the child’s well-being, failure to pay child support, or abuse.
When a child is over the age of 14, they must also give their consent to be adopted by a stepparent. They will typically provide a written statement for the judge to consider during adoption proceedings.
Along with creating unity within your family, adopting a stepchild has other benefits. If the child’s other parent has been an inconsistent presence in his or her life, adopting the child is a gesture that you take your relationship with them seriously. Following adoption, you will be the child’s legal parent, giving you the legal to make decisions about their upbringing and education. Adoption also benefits the child, because they now have options to be covered under your employer’s insurance, and they will be eligible to receive an inheritance from you later on in life.
If there are no objections, the related adoption process can take as little as 90 days. Courts look out for what is best for the child, and in most cases, adoption by a stepparent is seen as a benefit.
Contact a DuPage County Family Law Attorney
Although adopting a stepchild is often the easiest form of adoption, it is still important to work with an attorney to ensure the process goes smoothly. Contact an Illinois adoption lawyer to begin the process of making your family complete. Call our offices at 630-933-8400 to schedule a free consultation.