If you are a parent, you should always want what is best for your child, even it means making certain sacrifices. The law also provides you with particular rights and responsibilities in regard to your child. In the wake of a divorce, exercising your parental rights may be especially difficult if the other parent is given the majority of the parenting time and most of the authority for decision-making. When your ex-spouse gets remarried, the challenges may become even greater, particularly if his or her new spouse expresses the desire to legally adopt your child.
A Stepparent Adoption Requires Your Consent
In most situations, your ex-spouse’s new husband or wife cannot adopt your child unless you voluntarily consent to the adoption. If you agree to the adoption, you also agree to the termination of your parental rights and responsibilities regarding your child. According to Illinois law, a person may have only two legal parents. As such, a stepparent adoption is more than a formality; it creates a legal parent-child relationship between the stepparent and your child, giving the stepparent all of the authority and responsibilities that were once yours.
It is up to you to decide whether to give your consent when a stepparent is looking to adopt your child. If you approve of the proposed adoption, you relinquish your standing to ask for visitation or to make decisions about your child’s life. Depending upon the situation, your former partner and his or her new spouse may allow you to continue your relationship with your child, but once the adoption is finalized, they are under no legal obligation to do so. As far the court is concerned, you are no longer the child’s parent, regardless of what a DNA test would show.
If, however, you refuse to grant consent, the case is essentially closed. The adoption cannot continue unless the court finds that you are unfit parent and terminates your parental rights against your will. While such a finding is rare, it is important to know what the court will consider if your ex-spouse claims that you are an unfit parent. You may be found unfit if the court determines:
- You have abandoned or otherwise relinquished your child;
- You have not maintained a continuing interest in your child’s well-being;
- You neglected the child or any other child for whom you have responsibility;
- You abused the child mentally, emotionally, or physically on a repeated basis;
- You have substance abuse problems for which you are not seeking help; or
- You were found guilty of a notorious crime.
Extreme, unforeseen circumstances notwithstanding, you have the ability to prevent a possible finding of unfitness by remaining an active, positive presence in your child’s life. Comply with your parenting plan, parenting time schedule, and child support obligations. Make life decisions for yourself that also benefit your child, and do not expose him or her to unnecessary physical, emotional, or psychological dangers. You do not need to be the perfect parent, but you do need to be a reasonably good parent.
Get Help With Adoption Concerns
If your ex-spouse has remarried and his or her new partner wants to adopt your child, it is crucial to understand the applicable laws and your available options. Contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney for guidance. Call 630-377-7770 for a free, confidential consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today.