stepparent adoption in illinois

Stepparent Adoption – What You Need to Know

Children who do not have two biological parents can be considered for adoption.  In some cases, like a stepparent adoption, children can be adopted even if they have two biological parents.  Adoption is the legal process a person would undergo to make themselves the biological parent of that child. 

What is Stepparent Adoption?

There are many forms of adoption, including stepparent adoption.  In a stepparent adoption, you are assuming the role of a biological parent, alongside one of the biological parents.  Perhaps the child has a mother who has died or a father who is not interested in parenting the child.  In that instance, you could seek to adopt that child.  If you are acting as a parent in the life of a child, you should consider legalizing the relationship.  When you adopt, you become the biological parent once a judgment is entered.  No other document will give you parental rights aside from an adoption.

The two major components of an adoption are (1) there is a child available for adoption and (2) there is a person or persons eligible to be an adoptive parent.  The easiest form of adoption is the stepparent adoption.  One of the parents is usually the biological parent, so no home study is required to complete the adoption, which expedites the process.  To start the process, you will need to file a Petition for Adoption.  In that petition, you will state whether the one biological parent will be consenting to the adoption, or if you are seeking to terminate parental rights, and why you believe the rights should be terminated.

The parental rights termination process can take a long time in some cases and that will be the focus of the court before going on to any other aspect of the case.

What if there are 2 biological parents now?

If I child has 2 biological parents, you will only be able to adopt if the other biological parent’s rights are terminated, or if that biological parent surrenders their parental rights.

What is involved to terminate a parent’s parental rights?

If you wish to terminate a biological parents rights, you have to plead in a petition, the reasons why that parent is unfit.  An unfit parent, pursuant to the Illinois statute 750 ILCS 50/1, is a parent who:

  1. Abandoned the child;
  2. Failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility as to the child’s welfare;
  3. Desertion of a child for more than 3 months before you file the Petition for Adoption;
  4. Substantial neglect of the child, if continuous or repeated;
  5. Extreme or repeated cruelty to the child and other reasons that concern abuse of the child.  

This list is not a full list of how a parent can be deemed unfit, but it gives you an idea of what is required.  It is not easy to terminate a parent’s parental rights if a parent is involved with the child, but if you want to adopt and the biological parent is not involved, these are examples of what you would need to prove.

What if the biological parent consents to the adoption?

If you file your petition for adoption and the other parent is willing to give up their parental rights, then that parent will need to come into court and sign a “consent.”  The parent will need a photo ID and answer some questions from the court regarding the parent’s mental state, and other questions that will ensure to the court that the parent understands exactly what is happening and what they are doing.  The court wants to ensure that the biological parent understands that their consent in open court terminates their parental rights and it is final.  A consent terminates the parental rights of a biological parent and it is irrevocable, meaning you cannot change your mind.  It is final.

After the termination of parental rights or a consent, what happens next?

Before the coronavirus, the Court required you to bring the child into court.  The child had to be “served” with a summons and personally appear in court.  Typically the service part of the case is something the children really enjoy.  The child appears at the desk of the sheriff and is served with the Petition for Adoption.  Which means that the sheriff hands the child the petition, or lays it on the child if the child is an infant.  If the child is old enough, the Sheriff’s office pins a plastic badge on them so they look like they are an officer.  The children generally love this step and who does not like getting something for free?!

Once the child is served, everyone heads up to the courtroom so that the judge can meet the child.  This is perfunctory for the most part, and if the child is over the age of 14, then the child has to consent to the adoption as well.  The judge generally engages in some small talk with the child, which is again a pleasant experience for everyone.

After court, then what?

A guardian is appointed to investigate the family and the stepparent will need to have fingerprints taken to ensure there is not some sort of criminal background the court should be aware of.  If all is clean after that, the judgment is typically entered without too much trouble.

Will we get a new birth certificate?  And can I change the child’s name?

Yes to both questions.  The Judgment of Adoption will list the child’s new name and the paperwork is sent to the Illinois Department of Public Health in Springfield for issuance of the new birth certificate.  Both “adoptive” parents will now go on the birth certificate.  The biological parent often finds the process a bit odd, since they are adopting their own child, but the process always includes one adopting parent and one biological parent in a stepparent adoption.

Interested in a Stepparent Adoption in Chicago? Anderson & Boback Can Help

If you are a stepparent in the Chicago area and you want to explore the idea of adoption, please contact Anderson & Boback for a free consultation. One of our experienced family law attorneys can meet with you and can help evaluate whether or not a stepparent adoption is a step you want to take.

 

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