After marrying someone who already has a child, it is common for a spouse to consider adopting that child when they’ve created a new family.There are stepparents who often help support the children and there are numerous other reasons for seeking an adoption. Adoptions allow stepparents to take a more active role in a child’s life, such as having authority to make decisions about the child’s education, medical care and other important matters. However, Illinois law includes one major hurdle to cross before the adoption process can begin.

Obtaining consent from the other biological parent is often a roadblock for many spouses who want to adopt their stepchildren. If the other parent is actively involved in the child’s life, the hope of adopting the child may be something the stepparent will have to put aside. The courts are not eager to separate children from their biological parents.

However, even if the other parent does not consent, the court may, on rare occasions, take steps to terminate his or her parental rights to clear the way for the stepparent to adopt. The biological parent may be unfit; for instance, if the other parent fails to communicate with, support or show interest in the child, the court may consider this abandonment. A parent who is abusive, addicted to drugs or alcohol, or suffering from an untreated mental illness may also face the loss of parental rights. Finally, if the child’s other parent is in jail, the court may agree to terminate that parent’s rights based on the type of criminal conviction and neglect of the child.

Stepparent adoption is not always easy. It is wise for a stepparent to obtain solid information about Illinois laws regarding adoptions. Many stepparents also find it helpful to have a skilled and experienced attorney guiding them through every step of the process.