Adopting a Child as a Stepparent

Oftentimes, adoption is portrayed in the media as a process by which a good-natured couple travels to another country to bring a new child into their life. Although these types of adoption are prevalent within the United States, however, other types of adoption do exist as well.

Sometimes, situations arise where a relative, either by blood or marriage, makes the decision to adopt a child that is near and dear to him or her. In fact, one of the most common types of adoption that occurs in the United States is the adoption by a stepparent of his or her spouse’s children. According to the United States Census Bureau, 4,384,581 children were adopted by step-parents in the year 2000 alone.

General Adoption

Adoption occurs when an adult who is not the biological parent of a child becomes the legal parent. In Illinois, there are three ways to obtain a an adoption. These include:

  • Voluntary means;
  • The natural parents providing consent; or
  • The court ordering the adoption.

Additionally, a person is eligible to adopt in Illinois as long as he or she is not under any legal disability, has lived in Illinois for at least six months, and is a reputable person.

Stepparent Adoption

As a threshold matter, for a step-parent to adopt his or her spouse’s child, the other biological parent must first terminate his or her parental rights. A biological parent’s parental rights can be terminated if he or she consents to the adoption or is deemed unfit by the court. Pursuant to the Illinois Adoption Act, a court may find a biological parent unfit for the following reasons:

  • The biological parent has abandoned the child;
  • The biological parent is unable to fulfill parental duties due to mental illness, mental deficiency, intellectual disability, or because he or she is in jail for a convicted felony;
  • The biological parent has systematically neglected the child;
  • The biological parent has physically abused the child two or more times;
  • The biological parent has deserted the child for more than three months;
  • The biological parent has repeatedly failed to provide the child with adequate food, clothing or shelter;
  • The biological parent has failed to regularly visit or communicate with the child for a period of 12 months; or
  • The child has been in foster care for 15 months out of the past recent 22 months.

Please note that in addition to the above reasons, a court may find the biological parent unfit for several other factors not mentioned but further outlined in the Illinois Adoption Act.

Contact an Illinois Adoption Lawyer

Illinois adoption law can be complex. Furthermore, if the biological parent does not consent to the adoption, the burden of proof to establish unfitness can be difficult. Thus, if you are contemplating adoption in Illinois, consult an DuPage County adoption attorney from Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. today. We will carefully review the facts surrounding your case and help you with the adoption process.