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What Is a Second Parent Adoption?

Categorized as Adoption

Second Parent Adoptions are typically done when a spouse has a child from a previous relationship and the circumstances allow that child to be adopted by the other spouse.  As an example:  Wife and Husband get married and Wife has a child from a previous relationship.  Wife wants Husband to adopt this child which can happen if the child’s biological father consents to the adoption.  However, there are situations where the biological father’s consent is not possible and that is when the biological father has passed away or is unknown.

Once the adoption is completed both parents will stand equal as far as parental rights, responsibilities and obligations related to the child. The adoption grants the second parent the same rights as the biological parent.  

Second Parent Adoption in Illinois

A Second Parent Adoption – when one of the parents is biologically related to the child – requires a court proceeding with the proper paperwork prepared and filed with the Court.  In Illinois, the requirements are not as stringent as an adoption proceeding when neither parent is biologically related to the child.  The process is still a formal court proceeding that requires a home study, background check and the consent of the biological parent who is consenting to the adoption.  The consent is very important because the consent will terminate that parent’s legal rights to this child in this process.  

Home Study Requirement

In Illinois, a home study is mandatory even though it is a second parent adoption.  A Home study is an investigation done by an agency that provides the Court with a report and their opinion of the adoption as it relates to the best interest of the child.   The Court must be sure that the child’s needs will be met if this adoption proceeds.  The Agency may want to see birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce documents, criminal background checks, and verify that there has been no allegations or findings of child abuse.  

The parties to the adoption, which are the biological parent and the parent adopting the child as well as the child will appear in court and the Judge will hear the facts surrounding the adoption. The court will confirm the parent’s desire and is likely to ask the child some light questions regarding the relationship the child has with the parent who is adopting the child.  Once a judge is satisfied that the criteria have been met and the proper paperwork filed, an Order for the adoption will be signed and a new birth certificate will be issued which will change the name of the father of the child and the child’s last name.  

Terminating Rights of the Consenting Parent

The parent consenting to this adoption and allowing another person to become the child’s parent will have all their rights and obligations to the child terminated.  There will be no inheritance that will flow from the consenting parent, no rights to see the child, and no obligations of support – all of that is terminated.  The court will only allow this termination if there is someone to step in and take on this responsibility in a Second Parent Adoption. The second parent who is adopting will have a legal child and all the obligations, rights and responsibilities that come with that.

Second Parent Adoption For Same-Sex Parents

A second parent adoption can be used when one same-sex partner has a biological child, and the other partner wants to adopt.  For example, if a woman has a child using a sperm donor, her partner can adopt the child through this Second parent adoption process.

Situations Where Second Parent Adoption Arises

In our law practice, I have seen this come up several times and often it is at the end of a long, contested fight over parenting time that includes abuse allegations, restricted or supervised parenting time and a very distressed child.  The parent that has the child has remarried and their new spouse wants to adopt the child which would terminate the relationship that the child has with the biological parent. 

Judges are very careful when this comes up as they want the parent giving up their rights to a child to understand exactly what that means and take every precaution to make sure they are doing this willingly and with full knowledge of all consequences.  Once the parent signs the consent to allow the child’s other parent’s new spouse to adopt the child, the litigation terminates.  I have seen this be a relief in some family situations and other times where it has been sad to see the destruction of parent/child relationships that can happen when parties abuse the court system.

Many times the pressure to consent to an adoption is financial.  There is a large amount of child support that is due and all financial obligations, including child support, medical payments, childcare, etc. that are due and owing are waived when the consent is signed.    

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