Modern families come in all shapes and sizes. Often, the individuals who care for a child are not his or her biological parents. Stepparents can play a crucial role in the lives of their stepchildren. In many cases, a stepparent becomes more of a parent to a child than the child’s biological mother or father is.
Unfortunately, stepparents have few rights when it comes to their stepchildren. For example, if a married couple divorces, the stepparent would not typically have child custody rights like parenting time and parental responsibilities. One of the best ways for a stepparent to protect his or her rights and substantiate his or her legal relationship with the stepchild is to adopt the stepchild.
Stepparent Adoption Laws in Illinois
The first thing to understand about stepparent adoption is that a child can have a maximum of two legal parents under Illinois law. If both of a child’s biological parents are still living and have parental rights, one of them will need to relinquish his or her parental rights in order for a stepparent adoption to take place. In some cases, a parent is willing to make this sacrifice because he or she knows it is in the child’s best interests. For example, a father who has been largely uninvolved in his son’s life may recognize that the son would be better off if his stepfather adopted him. Parents suffering from substance abuse, addictions, mental illnesses, and other problems sometimes voluntarily give up their parental rights and allow stepparent adoption because they recognize that they cannot provide the parental support the child needs.
However, if a biological parent does not want to give up his or her parental rights, the only way for a stepparent adoption to proceed is for the court to terminate the biological parent’s rights.
Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights in a Stepparent Adoption
In some cases, the court will terminate a parent’s parental rights in order to allow a stepparent adoption to take place. The court will only do this after a thorough investigation into the biological parent’s parental fitness. A court may consider a parent to be unfit if he or she has abandoned the child, abused or neglected the child, or failed to maintain a reasonable degree of concern for the child’s welfare. Severe mental illness, conviction for certain violent crimes, and alcohol or drug abuse may also be grounds for termination of parental rights. The court will evaluate the facts of the case and determine what course of action is in the child’s best interests.
Contact a DuPage County Stepparent Adoption Lawyer
If you are interested in adopting your stepchild, contact [[title]] to learn more about your rights and obligations. Our Wheaton adoption attorneys are experienced in stepparent adoption cases and we can walk you through the process. Call [[phone]] for a free consultation.