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Naperville family law attorneyAccording to recent studies, nearly 40 percent of all marriages are remarriages for at least one of the partners. While, to many, numbers such as these represent a renewed hope in the institution of marriages—which may be an accurate perspective—these estimates also indicate that more and more individuals are bringing more with them into marriage. Children from previous relationships are an increasing part of marriages, and especially affect those marrying for the second or third time. Of course, there is not a “perfect” way to approach a stepchild situation, as the dynamics of each family will depend upon countless factors. However, for some stepparents, legally adopting their stepchildren may provide a level of needed security and legal parental responsibility.

Related Adoptions

Foster care adoptions, along with domestic and international infant adoptions are certainly important for the well-being of children in need, but represent just part of the adoption story in the United States. The Child Welfare Information Gateway, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reports that adopting a stepchild is the most common form of adoption in the country today. Stepparent adoption is a type of related adoption in which a family member of the child looks to become the child’s legal parent. Compared to other forms, related adoptions are generally much simpler and no agency involvement in most cases.

Consent of Both Parents

Under Illinois law, “a reputable person of legal age” may initiate the proceedings for the adoption of a child. In a vast majority of stepparent adoption cases, the requirement of a home evaluation and other steps in the “normal” vetting process are waived due to the familiarity between the stepparent and the child. The successful adoption of a stepchild, however, will most often depend entirely upon the willingness of the child’s other parent to grant consent to the adoption. By virtue of your marriage, your spouse’s consent will not be in question, but the other parent must agree or the adoption will not take place. If the other parent cannot be found to either offer or deny consent, the court may allow the adoption to proceed at its discretion.

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DuPage County family law attorneysIf you are a parent, you should always want what is best for your child, even it means making certain sacrifices. The law also provides you with particular rights and responsibilities in regard to your child. In the wake of a divorce, exercising your parental rights may be especially difficult if the other parent is given the majority of the parenting time and most of the authority for decision-making. When your ex-spouse gets remarried, the challenges may become even greater, particularly if his or her new spouse expresses the desire to legally adopt your child.

A Stepparent Adoption Usually Requires Your Approval

In most situations, your ex’s new husband or wife cannot adopt your child unless you voluntarily consent to the adoption. If you agree to the adoption, you also agree have your parental rights and responsibilities regarding your child terminated. According to Illinois law, a person may have only two legal parents. As such, an adoption by a stepparent is more than a formality; it creates a legal parent-child relationship between the stepparent and your child, giving the stepparent all of the authority and responsibilities that were once yours.

It is up to you to decide whether to give your consent when a stepparent is looking to adopt your child. If you approve the proposed adoption, you relinquish your standing to ask for visitation or to make decisions about your child’s life. Depending upon the situation, your former partner and his or her new spouse may allow you to continue your relationship with your child, but once the adoption is finalized, they are under no legal obligation to do so. As far the court is concerned, you are no longer the child’s parent, regardless of what a DNA test would show.

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Posted on in Family Law

Naperville family law attorneyWhen a married couple reaches a point where they do not know if they wish to continue being married, they have several options. One of these options is a legal separation instead of a divorce. There are several reasons why a couple may choose to be separated. A legal separation is a court order that protects each spouse’s rights and responsibilities when they are living apart. The major difference between legal separation and divorce is that separated individuals are still married, versus a divorce where the marriage is ended. Legal separations are not as common as divorce, but there are certain circumstances where a couple’s best option may be a legal separation.

Separation Maintenance and Child Support

Most people associate spousal maintenance, or alimony, with divorce. However, when a couple legally separates, it is possible to obtain maintenance during the separation. Separate maintenance is comparable to alimony or spousal support, but it's not called alimony because the couple is still legally married. Many of the factors used to determine if separate maintenance is necessary are the same as the factors which are used when determining maintenance after a divorce. The amount and duration of the payments will depend on the length of the marriage, spouses' incomes, earning abilities, ages, and physical and mental wellbeing. The court can also determine how child custody will be shared, allocate parental responsibilities and parenting time, and order one parent to pay child support.

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Posted on in Family Law

Naperville family law attorneyAs the caretaker of a child, parents have some basic rights and responsibilities. Parents of a child have the right to raise their child in the manner that they believe is appropriate and have the responsibility to keep the child safe and provide for him or her. A court can take these rights away from a parent if he or she violates the law repeatedly or in a particularly heinous way. In certain situations, a parent can also voluntarily terminate his or her rights, which ends the legal parent-child relationship and absolves the parent of many responsibilities.

Involuntary Termination

In Illinois, one parent cannot simply petition the court for the termination of another parent’s rights. A parent’s rights can only be terminated in conjunction with the Adoption Act or in a juvenile case. Family courts start with the assumption that it is best for children to have two parents in their lives, except in cases where this is not in the best interest of the child or a parent is found to be unfit. In Illinois, a parent can be found unfit to be a parent if they:

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Posted on in Family Law

Naperville family law attorneyIt has been nearly two years since sweeping reforms to Illinois’ family law statutes were enacted. The new laws amended several processes associated with divorce and child-related legal proceedings, including the elimination of fault-based divorce and the removal of mandatory separation periods prior to divorce. Perhaps the most noticeable changes, however, were in the terminology used to describe certain elements of family law. It is important to familiarize yourself with the new language if you are considering filing for divorce.

Changes to Child Custody Matters

In terms of terminology, the most important change in this arena is the removal of the term “child custody” from the law. Instead, judges and attorneys now speak of “allocation of parenting time and responsibility.” This may seem like a small change, but it was intended to make the entire divorce process far less confrontational. Many Illinois lawmakers have made the valid point that a more civil divorce process benefits both the spouses and the children of a marriage, and terminology changes like this are meant to cast parenting as a joint endeavor rather than a battle to be “won” or “lost.”

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