In a blended family, stepparents and stepchildren often form a close bond. However, that relationship does not give stepparents a parent-child relationship that is recognized by law.
Adopting a stepchild allows stepparents to establish such a relationship with a child they might already see as their own. The process to adopt a stepchild involves several forms and requirements. The most important of all these requirements is written consent from all the parties involved if the process is uncontested. Please note, as stated below, in the event a biological parent is unfit but won’t agree, the parties may move for an adoption if it’s in the best interests of the child.
So, who must consent to a stepparent adoption?
- Both of the child’s biological parents
It is critical to obtain consent from both of the child’s parents.
The spouse’s consent is usually a given. After all, in most cases, adoption is a combined effort for the family. Even so, they must still provide their written consent with the proper form.
As we have discussed in past blog posts, however, getting consent from the other biological parent can be a challenge. This is often because:
- They might be difficult to locate, especially if they are not actively involved in their child’s life; or
- They refuse to give their consent to permit the adoption and, in turn, terminate their parental rights.
If the other parent is unfit, there are still ways to move forward with the stepparent adoption without the other parent’s consent.
- The child (14 or older)
Under Illinois law, if the stepchild is 14 or older, then stepparents must also obtain their consent for the adoption. Like their biological parents’ consent, children must give their consent in writing.
When pursuing stepparent adoption, stepparents and their spouses should approach the child long before they begin the legal process. Together, the child’s biological parent and stepparent should:
- Encourage the stepchild to be open about their feelings
- Engage in a continuing conversation about the adoption
- Ensure that this is what the stepchild wants as well
This should be a decision that families make together. That way, obtaining written consent from one’s spouse and stepchild is only a formality. Even if children are younger than 14, families should still sit down together to discuss the logistics and significance of the adoption.
Consent is critical in this process – even outside of the legal realm. And it is not something that stepparents should overlook.