Relationships between stepparents and stepchildren can be just as important and strong as the relationships between biological parents and children. Under Illinois law a stepparent can file a petition to legally adopt a stepchild. However, the family must follow the rules and regulations exactly if the adoption is to be successful.
Illinois considers stepparent adoptions related adoptions. Both biological parents must consent to the adoption in most cases. The stepparent and his or her spouse, one of the biological parents, file a petition with a family law court to start the adoption process.
In more contested situations, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child. The guardian ad litem is a lawyer whose job is to represent the interests of the child the stepparent wishes to adopt. If required, the stepparent must pay the legal fees of the guardian ad litem. The child’s advocate will conduct interviews and may hire other experts, at the stepparent’s expense, to make sure the adoption would be in the best interest of the child. After the investigation, the guardian ad litem files a report with recommendations to the judge, who will usually follow the recommendations.
The biological parent that is not married to the stepparent must consent to the adoption using a specific form and the form must be completed and executed in a specific way, or else the consent will not be valid. If the there are no consent issues, the adoption will be finalized.
There are several problems that could arise in the course of a stepparent adoption. Any child over the age of 14 will have to agree to the adoption. If the child does not agree the adoption cannot go forward.
If one of the biological parents objects to the adoption, refuses to give consent, or simply cannot be located, the adoption cannot continue until the parental rights of the biological parent have been terminated. The termination of parental rights is a complicated process. The court requires a high threshold of proof that a parent is not a fit parent. There are many different grounds to establish a parent is unfit.
A parent who is found to be unfit will have his or her parental rights terminated. Once the rights are terminated, the stepparent adoption can move forward. If the parental rights are not terminated, the adoption cannot take place.
If you have questions about stepparent adoption, you need to speak with an experienced Orland Park family law attorney as soon as possible. Our knowledgeable team can help you understand your rights and responsibilities, so that you are better prepared to navigate the process. Call 708-518-8200 to schedule your free consultation today.