Many times when a blended family forms, stepparents wish to adopt stepchildren in order to legally reflect the relationships that have formed. When a stepparent adopts a child it means that the stepparent is awarded the legal responsibility to support and care for the child.
Requirements for Stepparent Adoptions
There are a number of requirements that must be met in order for stepparent adoption to be a possibility:
1. The stepparent must be married to the child’s primary residential parent.
2. The parent of the child that the stepparent is not married to must terminate his or her parental rights. A child cannot have three legal parents. Termination of parental rights means that the biological parent will not have custody or visitation rights. In some cases, this may not be an issue because the other parent is dead. In other cases, this may not be an issue if the biological father did not register with the Putative Father Registry within 30 days of the birth of the child or take other steps to preserve his parental rights. If the other parent does not agree to terminate his or her parental rights, the parent’s rights may be terminated by the court if the parent is proven to be unfit.
3. If the adoptive child is at least 14 years old, he or she must consent to the adoption.
Proving a Parent’s Unfitness
If the biological parent will not voluntarily give up parental rights, Illinois law provides that the parent can be declared unfit for certain enumerated reasons, including:
- Child abandonment;
- Failure to sustain a reasonable degree of concern, responsibility or interest as to the child’s welfare;
- Substantially neglecting the child;
- Leaving the child for the three months prior to the adoption process;
- Cruelty to the child; and
- Repeated physical abuse.
Benefits to the Adoptive Child
There are several key benefits to the child should a stepparent choose to adopt. Perhaps the biggest benefit is symbolic as a group of people that has been acting as a family will be recognized by law as a family.
Other benefits include:
- Two legal parents who are present for the child;
- New last name for the child, if desired;
- New birth certificate;
- The child’s ability to inherit from the adoptive parent;
- The child’s eligibility for certain benefits that may be available from the military or Social Security; and
- The child’s eligibility for health insurance.
Contact a Glen Ellyn, IL Adoption Lawyer
Adoptions should be overseen by a knowledgeable attorney. Failure to properly execute adoption procedure and paperwork will create complications in the future. We also represent parents who do not wish to have their parental rights terminated. The skilled DuPage County adoption attorneys at Mulyk, Laho & Mack, LLC offer free consultations. Call (630) 852-1100 to schedule your first meeting today.