How Can I Prevent a Stepfather from Adopting My Child?
As anyone in a blended family can tell you, navigating relationships involving stepparents and stepchildren is often difficult. Many parents struggle to accept it when an ex remarries and brings a new stepparent into their child’s life. This is especially true if the parent feels that the stepparent is trying to replace him or her. If you are a father currently in this situation, you may wonder whether your child’s stepfather has the right to adopt your child. The answer depends on several factors.
Illinois Law Regarding Parental Rights
According to Illinois law, a child can only have two parents. A child may only be adopted if one or both of the child’s parents is deceased or has their parental rights terminated. If you have already established paternity or parentage of your child, you are the child’s father in the eyes of the law. This means that your child’s stepfather cannot adopt your child unless your parental rights are terminated - either voluntarily or involuntarily. Illinois law seeks to preserve the parent-child relationship whenever possible. Therefore, it is only under extreme circumstances that a parent’s rights are terminated against his or her will.
Illinois courts may determine that a parent is “unfit” and terminate that parent’s rights if the parent:
- Abandons the child
- Fails to maintain a reasonable concern for the child’s wellbeing
- Abuses or neglects the child
- Has a substance abuse problem that endangers the child or prevents the parent from carrying out parenting duties
You Must Establish Paternity to Have Parental Rights
When a mother gives birth to a new baby, she automatically becomes the child’s legal parent. However, the same is not always true for fathers. If you were not married to your child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth, you will need to establish paternity of your child. The easiest way to do this is for both parents to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) document. However, this option may not be possible if your child’s mother doubts that you are the child’s father. If your child’s mother does not think that you are the biological father or does not want you to establish paternity, you may need to undergo DNA paternity testing or file a paternity suit through the court to prevent the stepparent adoption.
Contact a DuPage County Paternity Lawyer for Help
If you need to establish the legal relationship to your child or you want to prevent your child’s stepparent from adopting him or her, contact MKFM Law for legal guidance. Our Wheaton, Illinois family law attorneys can protect your rights and help you understand your legal options. Call 630-665-7300 for a confidential consultation today.