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Adopting Your Stepchild in Illinois

Posted on in Family Law

Naperville family law attorneyAdopting a child is a process that will necessarily be slow, so as to ensure that potential parents are fit to have such a responsibility. However, when the adoption is necessary due to a parent’s remarriage, the process can go noticeably faster, assuming the pattern of required events actually occurs. Stepparent adoption is fairly common in Illinois.

The Procedure

While most adoptions can take quite some time, a “related child” adoption can be quite easy if the child’s other parent consents—a stepchild counts as a related child under the Illinois Adoption Act. The other parent’s consent can be recorded on the relevant form, and your petition will almost always be approved as long as you have completed the other adoption requirements, such as hiring a guardian ad litem and proving you are under no legal disability that would impede your ability to parent. No criminal background check is required for stepparents and certain other relations who seek to adopt, though in a non-related adoption this might conceivably be what holds up the process the most.

One other note about the process itself is that unlike in a non-related adoption, the mother and father of a child involved in a related child adoption do not need to have been married. However, if they were not, and the father never registered with the Illinois Putative Father Registry—as is required for his name to appear on the child’s birth certificate—he may not have standing to object to the adoption because he will not have been registered as the child’s father in the first place.

Consent Is Key

The most important thing to understand is that consent from all parties is required, and that includes the child’s other biological or legal parent, if he or she can be located. Even older children, over the age of 14, get a say and can veto an adoption. However, if the other legal parent does not consent, the process gets infinitely more complex than if he or she agrees. If that occurs, “unfitness” must be proven by clear and convincing evidence. It would be unconscionable to simply terminate a parent’s rights regarding his or her child if no bad behavior has occurred.

The Illinois Adoption Act lists several different reasons that one might be able to claim unfitness, any of which can conceivably be argued to show that a stepparent adoption would be in the best interest of the child. Examples include:

  • Physical abandonment of the child;
  • Failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest or responsibility in the child’s welfare;
  • Substantial neglect or any physical abuse;
  • Depravity, such as being convicted of a violent crime;
  • Failure to pay child support or to make a good faith effort to do so; and
  • Several others, generally anything involving improper conduct or refusal to honor responsibilities.

If you can prove that the child’s other parent has committed any of these acts, your petition for adoption will almost certainly be granted. Illinois courts generally prefer for a child to have two parents, but if a stepparent is willing and able to step into such a role, this is not an issue.

An Adoption Attorney Is Necessary

Because the stakes in an adoption case are so high, it is imperative to involve a knowledgeable attorney as early as possible. Contact an experienced DuPage County adoption lawyer to discuss your case. Call 630-352-2240 for a free consultation at Pesce Law Group, P.C. today.

Sources:

https://www.putativefather.org/index.aspx

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2098

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