Ending a committed relationship is always difficult, but when the relationship involves children, the emotions can be overwhelming. For parents, a breakup or divorce can feel like their world is crashing down around them. The excitement and happiness of a new relationship can be equally strong, and many divorced parents eventually decide to marry again. As the new family becomes accustomed to each other and their roles, the couple may elect to pursue a “related adoption” to grant legal parental rights to the step-parent.
According to estimates, about 40 percent of marriages in the United States create some sort of blended family, meaning one or both partners have a child from a previous relationship. Not all stepfamilies share a household, so obviously, some are not as close as others. For those that are close, an adoption may offer the opportunity to provide for the best interest of the child and parents alike. There are a few things to keep in mind when considering the adoption of a stepchild.
Consent of the Other Parent
Parental rights are nearly sacrosanct in the eyes of the American legal system, and rightly so. A related adoption, however, requires the non-custodial parent to voluntarily give up their parental rights, which can understandably be very difficult. If the child’s other parent is unwilling to grant consent, the adoption of the stepchild will not take place, unless that parent is deemed unfit as provided under the Illinois Adoption Act.
Consent of the Child
If the child to be adopted is age 14 or older, Illinois law recognizes the wishes of the child in regard to the adoption as well. Regardless of the wishes or consent of the adult parties, the adoption cannot be finalized without the approval of the child.
Guardian ad Litem
In every adoption case, the court is required to appoint an attorney as a guardian ad litem. The appointed attorney acts as an extension of the court to investigate the circumstances of the family and the potential adoption to determine the best interest of the child. The guardian ad litem then makes a recommendation to the court as to whether or not the adoption should proceed. Although the custodial parent and stepparent must cover the fees, the guardian ad litem is an agent of the court, independent of either party, and the recommendation carries a great deal of influence on the court’s decision.
Related adoptions, in many ways, are much simpler than unrelated or international adoptions. Background checks and home visits by an agency are not usually required, and, typically, the parties involved are generally much more familiar with one another. However, there can be obstacles that turn up unexpectedly, even in the smoothest of cases. That is why is it important to have legal help you can trust.
If you live in Illinois and are considering adopting your stepchildren, contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney. We will review your situation and provide the assistance you need to meet the needs of your family.