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Adopting Your New Spouse's Children: What You Need to Know

When you marry to a spouse who has children, you may wish to obtain legal status as a parent for their children as well through the adoption process. Adopting stepchildren isn’t as long and detailed a process as a traditional adoption (you won’t have to go through home visits and a long waiting period), but you will have to go through the unique obstacle of obtaining the right to adopt the child from the birth parent. Let’s take a closer look at how you can do this.

Obtain Permission

Getting consent from the other birth parent is perhaps the easiest way of being able to complete the adoption process, but it’s far from simple. In consenting to this adoption, the birth parent essentially agrees to give up all of their parental responsibilities. While this does include any child support obligations, this can also mean visitation rights and the ability to see their children on a regular basis. If the birth parent has little to no relationship with their child to begin with, then obtaining permission shouldn’t be as difficult. If they do, it could be trickier.

Terminate Parental Rights

You can avoid the requirement of obtaining consent by establishing grounds to eliminate the birth parent’s parenting rights. This is probably the more difficult path, but is sometimes the necessary one. There are a few ways you can terminate parental rights, including these three common grounds:

  • Abandonment: When a birth parent has “abandoned” a child, they essentially forfeit their parenting rights as well. Abandonment can include simple things such as failing to provide financial support for a child, failing to communicate with a child, or failing to be involved in their life for an extended period of time. You should talk to an Illinois family law lawyer to learn about whether you qualify to utilize this provision.
  • Unfit parent: If you have reasonable cause to demonstrate that a birth parent is unfit, then you may request a fitness hearing. Parents who are abusive, neglectful, abandon their children, mentally unfit, or have addiction problems with drugs or alcohol could be considered unfit parents. Parents who are incarcerated for a long period of time could also be considered unfit. Consent is not required from unfit parents.
  • Not really the parent: If a parent who was thought to be the father of your spouse’s children turns out to not actually be the father through not having established paternity, then consent isn’t required and you may proceed with the adoption process. However, “presumed fathers,” or fathers who meet the requirements of a father, can still block adoption unless you can prove they are either unfit or have abandoned their children.

Call Wakenight & Associates, P.C. to learn more about adoptions and get help with the legal side of your family law matters! Contact us by dialing (888) 351-2843 today.

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