As a parent, you will always want what is best for your child. By law, you also have a number of rights and responsibilities related to his or her upbringing and support. Exercising your parental rights can be challenging in the wake of divorce, especially if your ex-spouse has been allocated a majority of the parenting time and decision-making authority. When your ex-spouse gets remarried, your situation can become even more challenging, especially if his or her new partner expresses interest in legally adopting your child. If you are concerned about your parental rights being threatened, there are some steps that you can take to protect yourself.
Stepparent Adoption Requires Consent
In order for your ex’s new spouse to adopt your child, in most situations, you must grant voluntary consent. This means that you willingly terminate your parental rights and responsibilities for your child, as the law permits a person to have only two legal parents. A stepparent adoption is not a mere formality; it expressly transfers full parental authority and creates a legal parent-child relationship between your son or daughter and the stepparent.
It is your choice whether to grant your consent to a stepparent adoption. If you agree to it, you will no longer have any legal standing to request visitation or to make decisions regarding your child. Your ex-spouse and his or her new spouse may allow you to remain a part of the child’s life, but the court cannot force them to do so. If you refuse to consent, the case is all but closed. Your refusal can only be overridden by a finding that you are an unfit parent, and the involuntary termination of your parental rights.
The court may find you unfit as a parent on several grounds, including that:
- You abandoned or relinquished your child;
- You did not maintain a reasonable interest in your child’s welfare;
- You neglected the child in question or any other child;
- You repeatedly abused the child mentally, physically, or emotionally;
- You have unaddressed substance abuse problems; or
- You were convicted of a notorious crime.
Outside of extreme situations, this means that you can prevent a finding that you are unfit by playing an active, positive role in the life of your child, no matter how difficult your ex-spouse makes it to see your son or daughter. Adhere to your parenting time agreement and child support order. Make personal decisions that benefit your child’s well-being, and avoid exposing him or her to negative influences. You do not need to be perfect, but you do need to be a reasonable parent.
Seek Help From a Wheaton Family Lawyer
If your ex’s new spouse is looking to adopt your child, it is imperative that you understand the law and your options. Contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney today to learn more. Call 630-665-7300 for a confidential consultation at MKFM Law.