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What you need to know about stepparent adoption

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2021 | adoptions |

Adopting the child of your partner is common in today’s society. As the child’s stepparent, it is vital that you build a solid relationship with your stepchildren. Filing for adoption adds both emotional and legal stability to the relationship.

Thankfully, Illinois law includes a straightforward process to help you adopt your stepchildren or stepchild. Here is everything you need to know to get started.

Understanding stepparent adoption

Among the many forms of adoption is stepparent adoption. It is the process of assuming all responsibilities of a legal parent, together with one of the child’s legal custodial or biological parents. It is extremely important since, if the biological parent dies and there is no adoption in place, the stepparent has no right to be the parent of the child.

Because one parent is already a legal parent, the process doesn’t require a home study.

If the child has two legal or biological parents

In a related adoption:

  • If the biological parent willingly gives up his or her parental rights (termed a consent)
  • If a court of law terminates the parental rights  of the non-adopting biological parent

Terminating parental rights

To terminate parental rights, you must submit a petition stating why that particular parent is unfit. According to Illinois law, a parent can be classified as unfit if:

  • They abandon or desert their child or children.
  • They fail to maintain concern, interest, and responsibility towards their child’s welfare.
  • They are repeatedly cruel to the child.
  • They show substantial child neglect, either repeatedly or continuously.

While this list above is not comprehensive, it offers a general idea of common reasons why a court may grant termination of parental rights. In a related adoption, the biological parent consents. Then the other biological parent must either consent or be found unfit. You must obtain valid service and prove one of several grounds of unfitness. Seeking assistance from a legal professional can help improve chances of success when submitting this type of petition.

When a legal parent agrees to the adoption

In Illinois a parent gives up their parental rights, by signing a consent form in court. Because the process is irrevocable, the court must ensure that parent fully understands the implications of their consent. The child must also give consent if they are over the age of 14. However, Illinois gives full faith and credit to any other state so it is possible to sign a consent in another state where the biological parent resides under that state’s law and Illinois will recognize it.

Getting a new birth certificate after adoption

The child or children will get a new birth certificate after the adoption process ends. The Illinois Department of Public Health ensures both the adopting parents are listed on the new birth certificate. The child’s name is typically changed to the adopting parents’ name.

Adopting a stepchild can be an extremely positive milestone within a family. Due to the laws that govern the process, it is important to understand each step before beginning the adoption to ensure success.