When a single parent marries, his or her new spouse will have a relationship with his or her child. But not all relationships between married adults and their spouses' children are the same. In some households, this relationship remains distant and in others, the child and the new spouse form a substantial parent/child bond. In many cases where a parent remarries, his or her spouse becomes known as the child's stepparent. But officially, a new spouse is not a legal stepparent until he or she has adopted the child. The process for adopting a spouse's child is known as stepparent adoption and in many ways, it is different from the process of adopting a child from another couple or the foster care system. Because many couples divorce and remarry while their children are still minors, stepparent adoption is considered one of the most common type of adoption in the United States.
For a stepparent to be able to adopt a child, the child's other parent must terminate his or her parental rights. This can be done voluntarily or through a court order. If a child's parent does not consent to the adoption, the court must determine that he or she is unfit to parent to terminate his or her rights. If the child is 14 years old or older, he or she must also consent to the adoption in the presence of a judge. Adolescents have the right to veto an adoption.
If the child's other parent refuses to consent to the adoption, the court may find him or her unfit to parent due any of the following reasons:
Stepparent adoptions in Illinois are governed by the Illinois Adoption Act. In many cases, they are much quicker and easier to complete than other types of adoption because components like a home study and a waiting period are not necessary. If the child's other parent consents to the adoption or is no longer living, the process is very quick and easy. The parents sign the necessary paperwork to complete the adoption, then file the paperwork with the circuit court of the county in which they reside.
You do not have to officially adopt a child to have a strong relationship with him or her. In fact, it is not uncommon for a parent's new spouse to unofficially be known as the child's stepmother or stepfather even if he or she does not adopt the child. Whether you choose to adopt your spouse's child or not, you can still be a strong role model in the child's life.
Adopting your spouse's child gives you the same legal rights that a natural parent has to the child. In essence, through a stepparent adoption you become the child's parent, rather than simply his or her parent's spouse. This grants you the right to seek child support and parenting time with the child in the event of a divorce, the right to custody of the child if his or her other parent dies or goes to prison, and the right to make serious decisions on the child's behalf, such as decisions about his or her medical treatment.
If you are considering adopting your new spouse's child, work with an experienced DuPage County family attorney to make the process as stress-free for all parties involved as possible. Our team at Sullivan Taylor & Gumina, P.C., proudly serves clients throughout DuPage County and Northern Illinois. Contact our Naperville law firm today to schedule your initial legal consultation with a qualified member of our team.