Adoption is a lifetime commitment to a child that should not be taken lightly, and no matter how rewarding the ultimate outcome may be, it is rarely an easy process. Adopting a child of your spouse is often more straightforward than the adoption of a non-biological child, but it is still important to have competent representation. A qualified family law attorney can help you through the process of a stepparent adoption and ensure that your family’s rights are protected.
Stepchild Adoption in Illinois
In Illinois, an adult who is at least 18 years old, has a good reputation, and is under no legal disability can adopt a child. For some kinds of adoptions, the adopter must have lived in Illinois for a minimum of six months, or for 90 days if he or she is in the armed forces. However, this residency requirement can be waived in the case of a related adoption, including one involving a stepchild.
To legally adopt the child of your spouse, the parental rights of the child’s other biological parent must be terminated. A parent may voluntarily terminate their parental rights, or a court may terminate the rights of a biological parent if evidence shows that they are not fit to take care of the child. Some examples in which a court may decide to terminate parental rights include:
Evidence of abuse or neglect towards the child
Abandonment of the child
Habitual substance abuse
Failure to provide financial support
If a child is over the age of 14, he or she must also consent to the adoption in order for it to take place.
Advantages of a Stepchild Adoption
There are a number of benefits to making the relationship between a stepparent and a stepchild permanent. Officially adopting the child of your spouse may strengthen your bond with him or her and create a sense of completion for the family. Stepchild adoption can also provide legal and financial benefits. For example, if your legal children are eligible for certain legacy benefits, such as inheritances or programs and benefits available to the children of armed service veterans, adopting your stepchild would make him or her eligible as well. In the event of an emergency, you would also be able to make important medical or legal decisions regarding the child.
Areas of Potential Concern
Some children may take more time to adjust to having a stepparent, and it is important to take the relationship with your spouse’s child at their pace. Older children may be more resistant to stepparents and adoption, depending on their relationship with their other biological parent. It is best to consider the interests of all parties involved and work toward reaching a solution that strengthens your family relationships while providing you with the legal protections you need.
Contact a Kane County Family Law Attorney
Stepchild adoption can be a great way to strengthen the bonds in your growing family. At Goostree Law Group, our experienced St. Charles adoption lawyers can explain the process of adopting your spouse’s child, work to protect the rights of everyone involved, and advocate for the best interests of your stepchild. Call 630-584-4800 for a free, confidential consultation and review of your situation today.