Being a stepparent can be challenging. However, it can also be deeply rewarding. Many times, a stepmom or stepdad becomes an essential figure in a child’s life, acting as if he or she was the child’s biological parent. However, stepparents do not have the same rights as biological parents. For example, if a stepparent divorces the child’s biological parent, the stepparent has to no right to parenting time with the child. For this reason and many others, some stepparents choose to legally adopt their stepchildren.
Stepparent Adoption When the other Parent Consents
The law says that children can only have two legal parents or guardians. If you want to adopt your stepchild and both of the child’s biological parents are still living, one of the parents will need to relinquish his or her parental rights. In some cases, biological parents see that stepparent adoption is in their child’s best interests. They fully cooperate with the adoption and willingly relinquish their own parental rights so that the stepparent can become the child’s legal parent. If a biological parent agrees to the adoption, the stepparent adoption process is relatively straightforward. However, some parents refuse to give up their parental rights to allow the adoption to occur, even if this is in the child’s best interests.
Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
If a child’s biological parent will not give up his or her parental rights and consent to the adoption, there is still another legal avenue available. Illinois courts have the right to sever a parent’s parental rights against their will in certain cases. However, the court will need ample evidence that the parent is “unfit” before terminating parental rights. A parent may be judged as unfit due to:
Physical or sexual abuse of the child
Neglect of the child
Substance abuse or addiction
Lack of communication or visitation with the child for at least one year
Lack of concern for the child’s well-being
Severe mental illness
Inability to provide adequate food, clothing, and shelter for the child
Inability to protect the child from danger
The burden of proof is on the party seeking termination of parental rights. The court only terminates a biological parent’s rights for the purpose of stepparent adoptoin if doing so is in the child’s best interests.
Contact a DuPage County Divorce Lawyer
If you are a stepparent and you want to adopt your stepchild, contact Davi Law Group for help. Call 630-657-5052 for a free, confidential consultation.