Because divorce is so common, having a stepparent or becoming one has also become less of a rarity over time. Children whose parents divorce and remarry at a young age often see this as their norm. Because they grew with it, there is nothing outside of the ordinary about having more parental figures than just the people who are biologically related to you. This is not the case with children or teens whose parents get divorced when they are old enough to remember a life when their parents were married. A stepparent can seem like a foreign concept. The emotional transition can be just as difficult, if not more, as the legal process to becoming an “official” parent through adoption.
What Does the Legal Process Look Like?
An individual is considered a child’s “stepparent” once they marry the child’s biological parent. However, in the eyes of the court, this person has no legal rights with the child. Becoming a legal guardian of a child as a stepparent can be difficult. A child can only have two legal guardians, thus the other biological parent must give up their legal rights in order for the child to gain a new legal guardian. Stepparent adoptions are most common when the other biological parent has passed away. If this is the case, the only permission needed is the stepparent’s spouse. From there, the process is similar to other adoptions. Legal documents must be completed, interviews conducted, and a decision made about whether or not the stepparent is fit to adopt the child.
How Can I Be a Good Stepparent?
Taking on the responsibility of a stepparent is no easy task. Children or teens are typically resistant to the change at first. To them, you can appear to be taking the place of their deceased parent or overstepping your bounds. The following are tips on how to ease into the stepparent role:
- Avoid Trying Too Hard: Children can sense when you are struggling, especially in the parenting department. Some stepparents will try to be the “fun parent” or “good cop” to avoid conflicts arising. This is never a good strategy. You will lose any “credibility” that you once had and you can appear to be buying their love. On the other hand, some people will overstep and take on too harsh of a parenting role. This will often drive an immediate wedge between you and the child. The key to being a good stepparent is allowing your relationship to naturally progress and grow rather than choosing one parenting extreme over another.
- Communicate with Your Spouse: It is advantageous to discuss your spouse’s expectations before becoming the child’s second parent. This will eliminate any misconceptions from either end, strengthening your parenting “front” if conflicts do arise. Ask your partner what their house rules and forms of discipline are to ensure that your type of parenting matches their routine.
- Remember to Respect the Child’s Other Parent: This can be difficult in cases of divorce; however, it is crucial to avoid further conflicts. Some stepparents can have an angry disposition towards the child’s other biological parent due to things that happened in the past. It is important to remember that your spouse and his or her previous marriage is not something you should get involved in. Oftentimes the child can become involved in conflicts that do not concern them. Doing this is a surefire way to ruin any future relationship with the child.
Contact a DuPage County Adoption Attorney for Help
Many people take on the role of a stepparent without involving any legal processes. However, if becoming a legal guardian of your stepchild is important to you and your spouse, an adoption attorney is necessary to successfully complete the process. If you are considering adoption, contact our Lombard, Illinois, adoption attorneys at A. Traub & Associates at 630-426-0196.