With remarriage rates at an all-time high, more and more couples are entering into new marital relationships with children from their previous marriages or other relationships. While blended families can certainly be a challenge for many, others quickly adjust to the new reality, establishing healthy, loving bonds between stepparents and stepchildren. Depending on the circumstances of the situation, some stepparents may even look to formally adopt their stepchildren, hoping to provide a level of security for the while taking on significant legal responsibility. If your child’s new stepparent is attempting an adoption, however, you have options in protecting your parental rights.
Your Consent Is Needed
A stepparent adoption most often concerns the new spouse of a child’s custodial parent seeking legal parental rights over the child. Illinois law only recognizes a maximum of two legal parents for any child. This means that, in order to continue, the child may only have one legal parent prior to the adoption or, during the process, the parental rights of the non-custodial parent must be terminated. The simplest way in which your parental rights may be terminated is by granting your voluntary consent to the adoption.
It is important to keep in mind that by voluntarily giving up your parental rights, you will no longer have legally-guaranteed access to or responsibility over your child. You will no longer have standing to file for custody or visitation, although, if you and the other parent can agree, you may be able to reach an informal agreement. On the other hand, you will no longer be responsible for maintaining obligations for child support; that responsibility is shifted to the stepparent in the event of a future divorce.
If you refuse to grant consent for the stepparent adoption, the proceedings are essentially dead. However, the other parent may try to show one of two things to allow the adoption to continue: that you are unfit and your parental rights should be involuntarily terminated; or that you are not actually the child’s parent. It would take substantial evidence presented to the court in order for you to be found unfit, including proof of physical abuse, a history substance abuse, neglect, or abandonment of the child among other things. Proving that you are not actually the child’s parent is even more complex, and your attorney can help you develop an approach to dealing with such allegations.
If another person is looking to adopt your child, it is critical that you understand your legal options before it is too late. Contact an experienced Orland Park family law attorney today for a free consultation. We can help ensure your rights are protected at every stage of the process.