Blocking a Stepparent Adoption
If you are a divorced parent, it can be challenging at times to maintain a healthy close relationship with your child when you have limited parenting time and relatively few parental responsibilities. Your bond with your child can be even further strained if your former spouse decides to remarry. Many parents are willing to endure the new challenges because the child may experience a renewed sense of security and stability as a result of the remarriage. But, what if the other parent’s new spouse expresses interest in legally adopting your child? Do you know what your rights would be in such a situation?
According to the law in Illinois, a child can have only two legal parents. When a child is born to a married couple, each spouse is presumed to be the child’s legal parent unless there a reason to believe otherwise—a paternity action filed by a third party, for example. A divorce does not alter either spouse’s status as the child’s legal parent. When a divorced parent remarries, his or her new spouse is not automatically afforded any parental rights or responsibilities under the law. He or she may be the de facto head of the household and act as a parental figure, but those are practical concerns and not legal considerations.
Stepparent Adoption Requires Your Consent
If your ex-spouse’s new partner wishes to adopt your child legally, you must consent to the adoption. It is important to realize, however, that granting your consent means much more than allowing the stepparent to act as a parent to your child. The adoption cannot proceed unless you agree to the termination of all of your parental rights and responsibilities. This means that you will no longer have the right to ask for increased parenting time, decision-making authority, or any other matters related to legal parentage. By agreeing to a stepparent adoption, you acknowledge that your child will be legally recognized as the child of the new stepparent for the purposes of custody, support, inheritance rights, legacy benefits, and any other considerations under the law.
Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
In most cases, if you refuse to consent to a stepparent adoption of your child, the matter will be considered dead. Sometimes, however, the other parent and stepparent may seek to override your objection by asking to court to terminate your parental rights. To do so, they will need to show that you are an unfit parent by “clear and convincing evidence.” Family courts in Illinois are generally hesitant to involuntarily terminate parental rights but may do so if you have a proven history of physical or emotional abuse, severe drug or alcohol problems, or you have shown a complete lack of interest in your child’s life. If the adoption will clearly serve the child’s best interests overall, the court may allow it to proceed.
Let Us Help
If your ex-spouse has remarried and a stepparent adoption could become a possibility, contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney for guidance. Call 630-665-7300 for a confidential consultation at MKFM Law today.