A traditional family consists of two parents and their biological children, but through remarriages and other family changes, many families are not traditional. Adoption is one family change that can make a huge difference in a child’s life. While adoption is often associated with adults taking on an unrelated child through an adoption agency, stepparent-stepchild adoption is actually the most common form of adoption.
Legal Requirements for Stepparent-Stepchild Adoption
When deciding whether or not to adopt a stepchild, one of the most important considerations is the other biological parent. If the child’s other biological parent is still alive, that person will either need to consent to the adoption or have their parental rights involuntarily terminated by the court. A lawyer experienced in stepchild adoptions can assist with the process of obtaining voluntary consent if needed. Alternatively, if the other biological parent cannot be found or is deemed an unfit person by the court, the court may terminate that person’s parental rights. In most cases, an Illinois court will not terminate the rights of one parent unless there is another parental figure who will take his or her place to support the child. The court may terminate a person’s parental rights for reasons such as:
Abandonment of the child
Proven abuse or neglect of the child
Failure to provide financial support for the child
Another critical factor is the child’s consent. Illinois law requires children who are at least 14 years old to consent to their adoption.
Illinois law requires the adopting stepparent to be at least 18 years old (unless the court waives this requirement in special circumstances) and to be a reputable person of either sex who is legally competent to manage their own affairs. Married spouses–that is, the child’s biological parent and the stepparent–must both be parties to a stepchild adoption proceeding.
Benefits of Adopting Your Spouse’s Child
Adopting a stepchild can have many benefits for the child and your family.
When the other biological parent is unfit and the child has not had a good relationship with them, termination of their parental rights may be in the best interests of the child. A stepparent adoption would then give the child the support of two fit parents.
Adoption provides a child with financial and legal benefits. An adopted child can be on the insurance of the adoptive parent and will be entitled to any inheritances or Social Security benefits to which a biological child would be entitled. If the parents later divorce, the child would be entitled to financial support from the adoptive parent.
Adoption allows the stepparent to make healthcare and other important decisions on behalf of the child that they otherwise may not have the legal authority to make. This can be important if the child’s biological parent travels for work or in the event that the child’s biological parent becomes incapacitated.
Contact a DuPage County Family Law Attorney
If you are thinking about adopting your spouse’s children so that you become their legal parent, seek advice from an experienced Wheaton family law attorney. Call our offices at 630-933-8400 to schedule a free consultation.