Adopting a Stepchild
For some families, it may be desirable for a stepparent to formally adopt a stepchild. The process for adopting a stepchild differs in many respects from other adoptions. While the process for adopting a stepchild can be faster, there are also important consequences and issues to consider. Often, the most significant hurdle to adopting a stepchild is obtaining the consent to the adoption by the other biological parent.
Process for Adoption
Under Illinois law, adopting a stepchild is completed through a process called related child adoption. A related child is one who has a certain relationship with a prospective adoptive parent, including adoptions where the parent is a stepparent. Related child adoptions differ in various ways from adoptions in which no such relationship exists between the adopting parents and the child to be adopted.
In order to adopt a child, the adopting couple must file a petition for adoption with the court, which contains information about the prospective parents. An investigation is completed to verify all of the statements contained in the petition. However, in the case of adopting a stepchild, this investigation or adoption home study is not necessary, unless specifically ordered by the judge.
Often the largest issue in an adoption of a stepchild is gaining the consent of the other biological parent. If the parent does not provide his or her consent, the adoption cannot occur. Without consent, the only way to proceed with the adoption is if the biological parent has his or her parental rights to the child terminated. Ways in which the termination of parental rights could occur include abandonment, unfitness, or failure to support.
Obtaining consent for an adoption may be difficult because it results in giving up all parental rights to the child. These rights include visitation, medical treatment and education. However, a parent may be inclined to agree if he or she believes that the adoption is in the best interests of the child. Alternatively, if the parent is paying child support, he or she may agree to the adoption because it will end any future obligation to provide support.
Consideration should also be given to the child to be adopted. Even in situations where the child has a great relationship with the stepparent, the child may still have an emotional attachment with his or her biological parent. An adoption will terminate the relationship between the child and his or her biological parent, which may not be in the best interests of the child.
If the child has a beneficial relationship with both the stepparent and biological parent, leaving those relationships as they are may be preferable over adoption. Often, adopting a stepchild works best when a biological parent has little or no involvement in the child's life, making the complete severing of that relationship less impactful.
Illinois Family Law Attorneys
If you would like more information or have questions about adoptions, including those related to adopting a stepchild, please contact an Illinois family law attorney today. MKFM Law provides legal representation for all aspects of the adoption process. Please call 630-665-7300. We look forward to hearing from you and discussing how our knowledge and skill can be used to help you grow your family.