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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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Naperville family law attorney“The best interests of the child” is one of the most common phrases in the realm of family law. A child’s well-being, of course, should remain among the top priorities in proceedings for divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities, parenting time, non-parent visitation, and adoption. The challenge, however, is that determining what exactly constitutes a child’s best interests is open to interpretation. As such, each parent may fully believe that they are acting in their child’s best interests yet hold vastly different objectives regarding the outcome of the case.

Helping the Process

When you and your child’s other parent cannot agree on a parenting plan or other arrangements regarding your child, the court is likely to offer several options. To start with, you may be required to participate in court-ordered mediation designed to help you and the other parent reach an agreement with the help of a third-party mediator. Mediation, however, is only possible in situations where both parties are willing and able to work constructively with one another.

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Naperville family law attorneyChild custody, now known as allocation of parental responsibilities under Illinois law, is an important topic that comes up for a variety of different reasons. We most often think of child custody during divorces, but child custody issues can also come up between unmarried parents who are arguing about parenting their children, or if two unmarried parents agree on parenting and wish to put their parental rights and obligations into writing. In the conflicted cases, however, if the case reaches a court, the court must rule on child custody issues like parenting time schedules and which parent gets what decision-making authority. Courts look at the child’s best interest when making a decision. Clients involved in child custody situations often ask if there are any factors that could hurt the chances of a court ruling in their favor. While no one can guarantee how a case will be decided, there are a few common factors that weaken one parent’s case.

Being Hostile and Uncooperative

Judges often favor parents who are able to cooperate and be reasonable with each other. This sounds obvious, but, all too often, one parent refuses to put the needs of their children over their own anger. If one parent can prove that the other has been hostile or acting out of emotion instead of prioritizing their children, they will likely have a stronger case for custody. Being unreasonable could lead to a judge not granting shared or joint custody. How can parents be expected to co-parent effectively if they can not even cooperate leading up to their court date?

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