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Wheaton Family Law AttorneyBeing a stepparent can be challenging. However, it can also be deeply rewarding. Many times, a stepmom or stepdad becomes an essential figure in a child's life, acting as if he or she was the child's biological parent. However, stepparents do not have the same rights as biological parents. For example, if a stepparent divorces the child's biological parent, the stepparent has to no right to parenting time with the child. For this reason and many others, some stepparents choose to legally adopt their stepchildren.

Stepparent Adoption When the other Parent Consents

The law says that children can only have two legal parents or guardians. If you want to adopt your stepchild and both of the child's biological parents are still living, one of the parents will need to relinquish his or her parental rights. In some cases, biological parents see that stepparent adoption is in their child's best interests. They fully cooperate with the adoption and willingly relinquish their own parental rights so that the stepparent can become the child's legal parent. If a biological parent agrees to the adoption, the stepparent adoption process is relatively straightforward. However, some parents refuse to give up their parental rights to allow the adoption to occur, even if this is in the child's best interests.

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

If a child's biological parent will not give up his or her parental rights and consent to the adoption, there is still another legal avenue available. Illinois courts have the right to sever a parent's parental rights against their will in certain cases. However, the court will need ample evidence that the parent is "unfit" before terminating parental rights. A parent may be judged as unfit due to:


Wheaton IL adoption lawyerAdopting a child is a massive undertaking emotionally, financially, and legally. There are multiple legal avenues through which you can adopt a child in Illinois. Two of the main paths to adoption are private or independent adoption and adoption through an adoption agency. If you are thinking about adoption, it is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each of these choices.

What is an Agency Adoption?

An adoption agency is an intermediary that facilitates adoptions. The agency helps match prospective adoptive parents with children who need a loving home. The agency also evaluates adoptive parents through interviews and home studies to ensure that the parents can provide the safe, loving home the child deserves. The facility also assists with paperwork and provides guidance throughout the adoption process.

What is an Independent Adoption?

An independent adoption does not involve an adoption agency. The birth mother and the adoptive parents work out an agreement on their own, without help from an intermediary. Private or independent adoptions are subject to certain rules and restrictions in Illinois. For example, an adopting parent must get permission from the court to pay for the birth mother’s medical expenses and other costs. You will also be required to complete a home study to proceed with a private adoption in Illinois. The birth mother has 72 hours after the child’s birth to change her mind and revoke consent to the adoption.


wheaton divorce lawyerIn the years after a divorce, finding a new partner and planning to remarry can be a major bright spot in your life. If your partner has children, you can also look forward to becoming a stepparent, an experience that can be both challenging and rewarding. You may be intimidated by the prospect of bonding with your partner’s kids, but there are things you can do to help these new relationships develop in a positive direction.

Getting to Know Your Future Stepchildren

If you know that your relationship is serious and could lead to marriage, it is a good idea to start getting to know your partner’s kids. It is normal for children to be skeptical or even resentful of a parent’s new love interest, but spending short periods of time with them can help them grow more comfortable with you and the role you will play in their lives. Make an effort to take genuine interest in the things that are important to your future stepchildren, and find common interests that you can bond over.

After becoming a stepparent, you should keep in mind that your stepchildren may be resistant to viewing you as a parental figure, especially if they have a strong relationship with their other parent. Try to give your stepchildren their space and respect their boundaries, and start with a foundation of mutual respect. Over time, this respect can grow into a stronger relationship.


Wheaton adoption lawyersAdopting a child is one of the most generous things that a person can do, as it often provides a child in need with a stable home and a loving family. However, the adoption process is not always easy, especially if one or both of the biological parents still have parental rights. This is often the case in a step-parent adoption or related adoption when the potential adopter or adopters are seeking to give the child a better life than the current legal parents are able or willing to provide. In these cases, it is necessary to terminate the current parents’ rights, either voluntarily or by court order, for the adoption to be able to proceed.

Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights in Illinois

Terminating parental rights is typically much easier if the biological parents are willing to consent to the adoption. This may be the case if a parent is uninterested in being part of the child’s life, or if he or she recognizes that the adoption would be in the child’s best interest. A person who cedes parental rights loses standing to pursue parenting time or decision-making authority regarding the child, and also is no longer obligated to provide financial support for the child. There may sometimes be a challenge in locating an absent parent to obtain consent, but if this is the case, there may be other options for terminating parental rights.

Proving That a Parent is Unfit

If a parent does not willingly consent to the adoption, the potential adopters will likely need to petition the court for the termination of the biological parent’s rights and demonstrate that the parent is unfit. There are a number of reasons that a parent can be declared unfit according to Illinois law, including:


Wheaton adoption attorneysMany children benefit from the love and support of relatives outside of their immediate family, and this can be especially important for children whose parents are no longer living or are unable to care for them. In these cases, a relative will often step up to formally adopt the child, solidifying a legal relationship in addition to the personal relationship. If you are considering a related adoption, a family law attorney can help you with the process.

Who Can Adopt a Related Child?

In Illinois, a person is eligible to be an adoptive parent in a related adoption if they are related to the child in one of the following ways, either by blood, marriage, or adoption:

  • Parent or step-parent
  • Grandparent, step-grandparent, or great-grandparent
  • Sibling or step-sibling
  • Aunt, uncle, great-aunt, or great-uncle
  • First or second cousin

Unlike some other types of adoption in Illinois, the adoptive parents in a related adoption do not need to have lived in Illinois for at least six months. Usually, a married person must adopt a child with his or her spouse. Adoptive parents are also usually required to be legal adults, but the court may allow a minor to adopt if there is good cause, which may be the case when a child is adopted by his or her sibling.

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