Blended families are becoming more and more common in the United States as the divorce rate continues to remain high. While the ideal situation, in most cases, has both parents playing active roles in the lives of their children, this is not always what happens. If one parent ceases to be a factor in their children’s lives, for whatever reason, a stepparent may be able to legally step into that role by adopting the children.
When Is Stepparent Adoption Permissible?
There are several points that any stepparent must consider if they want to adopt their partner’s child legally. First, they must be legally married to the child’s legal mother or father. Second, the law does not permit a child to have any more than two legal parents. In other words, the other parent must either be deceased, vanished, or otherwise have agreed to sign away their parental rights in order for you to be able to adopt the children. If the child is over the age of 14, he or she must also give their consent, and this is taken seriously; without it, the adoption will not go forward.
While an ex-spouse must be out of the proverbial picture before you can adopt your new spouse’s child, there is one way that this can be accomplished even if the other parent refuses to terminate his or rights voluntarily. A stepparent adoption may proceed if the other parent is deemed unfit. There are multiple different grounds on which parental unfitness may be proven, including child abandonment, lack of interest in the child’s life, failure to pay child support, or evidence of physical abuse.
When the Other Parent Cannot Be Located
Under Illinois law, the child’s other parent must be given the opportunity to contest the adoption. However, if he or she cannot be located by conventional means, notice must be served by publication, as well as serving a copy at their last known place of residence. Service by publication occurs when a notice is published in the relevant newspapers and other media outlets in the county where the ex-spouse was last seen for a set period of time—usually one to three months. If the person is not heard from by then, the court treats the matter as if the other parent is deceased.
One situation in which a biological parent may be hard to locate is if the child has no father listed on his or her birth certificate. While a stepparent may adopt the child if they have no listed legal father, it is not uncommon for the biological father to appear at a later date and attempt to seek custody or visitation. Illinois maintains a registry of purported fathers, and checking the registry is advisable before proceeding with the adoption.
Seek Experienced Legal Assistance
Adoptions can be very complex or relatively easy, and a knowledgeable lawyer may be the difference. Contact a skilled Kane County stepparent adoption attorney at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today. Call 630-377-7770 for a free, no-obligation consultation in our St. Charles office. We have the knowledge and tools to help you make the best decisions for the future of your family.