Marrying someone who already has a child can be a joyful and fulfilling experience. You may soon form a bond with your stepchild that is as deep as any parental connection. It is just such a realization that prompts many in Illinois to seek to adopt the children of their spouses.
Stepparent adoption has many benefits, but it is not always easy to accomplish. You may have several challenges to overcome, and you may find that they are insurmountable. However, if you are successful, you can look forward to sharing in your stepchild’s life with all the legal rights of a parent.
Why adopt your stepchild?
If your family is running smoothly, you may wonder why go through the efforts to legally adopt the child. However, what would happen if your stepchild needed medical attention but your spouse was unavailable? By law, you would have no authority to make medical decisions for the child without a court order. Adopting the child gives you the right to make decisions about the child’s education, upbringing and other important matters. More importantly, if the parent dies then the stepparent may not even have standing to contest the biological parent’s rights to make custodial decisions.
Taking the first step
To begin the process of adopting your stepchild, you must first consider the rights of the biological, non-custodial parent. If the other parent is still in the picture, you will have to obtain his or her consent to adopt the child. This may not be as easy as it sounds because it means the other parent must surrender his or her rights to the child.
Without this consent, the adoption process may go no further. However, there are some circumstances under which the court could grant your petition to adopt despite the other parent’s objections, such as if the parent has been largely absent from the child’s life or has a history of abusive behavior toward the child. Your attorney can assist you if you are struggling to obtain consent to adopt your stepchild.
After obtaining consent from the other parent, your spouse and the child, your next step is to complete and submit the necessary documents to the courts. The court will appoint a GAL, an attorney, to represent the child. You may have to undergo a home inspection, and you will eventually attend a hearing during which the judge will receive a report from the GAL and conduct a hearing regarding the child’s best interest. At any time during this process, you would be wise to seek the advice and representation of an attorney who has experience with the laws and procedures for stepparent adoption and overcoming the common roadblocks.