A stepparent adopting the child of his or her spouse is one of the most common type of adoptions and Illinois adoption law provides for reduced requirements to complete the adoption. While stepparent adoptions may be slightly “easier,” it is still important to have a quality adoption lawyer assist you through the process.
I am remarried and my new husband wants to adopt my children. Will it be easy for him to adopt?
It can be easy if the father of the children consents to the adoption, or does not oppose the adoption.
Can an adoption occur without the consent of the other parent?
Yes, but only if there are statutory grounds for unfitness of the other parent. Some of the statutory grounds for adoption in Illinois are:
- Failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility as to the child’s welfare.
- Desertion of the child for more than three months next preceding the commencement of the adoption proceeding.
- Substantial Neglect
- Physical Abuse
- Failure to protect the child from conditions within his environment injurious to the child’s welfare.
- Failure to demonstrate a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility as to the welfare of a newborn child during the first 30 days after its birth.
- Failure to make a good faith effort to pay a reasonable amount of the expenses related to the birth of the child.
- Failure to provide a reasonable amount for the financial support of the child.
In a stepparent adoption, does it make any difference if the biological father and the mother were never married to each other?
No, except that the father of a non-marital child, to preserve his rights, must, not later than 30 days after the birth of the child, register with the Putative Father Registry. If he does not register, he may not have standing to object to the adoption.
What is the basis for most stepparent adoptions?
A large arrearage in child support and no, or seldom, visitation by the biological parent may be a basis for stepparent adoption. Additonally, the following contribute to a finding of abandonment:
- Lack of visitation.
- Failure to support the child.
- Failure to provide health insurance coverage.
- Failure to remember the child on birthdays and holidays.
- Non-payment of child support.
Often, when a father has a substantial arrearage in child support and he has little contact with the child, the father will sign a consent to adoption with the understanding that the child support arrearage will not be enforced.
Can a parent who consents to the adoption have legally enforceable visitation rights?
No. All parental rights, including visitation, of the parent who consents to the adoption, or whose rights are terminated because of statutory grounds for adoption, are fully terminated. Such parents also have no future obligations or rights in regards to the child. The parties to an adoption can, however, work out an informal agreement for contact/visitation, but these arrangements are not legally enforceable.
Is a home study required for a stepparent adoption?
No. The judge has discretion to order a home study for a related adoption, but in most stepparent adoption cases no home study is required.
How long does a stepparent adoption take?
It can be done as quickly as 30 days from the time the proceedings are started, but usually it takes at least seven or eight weeks. The timing depends on finding the birth father and whether he will consent to the adoption.
Can there be an adoption if the identity or whereabouts of the father are unknown?
If the identity or whereabouts of the father are not known, a notice may be served against the father in a newspaper in the county where the adoption is taking place. A copy of the notice is also mailed to the father at his last known address. A notice may also be published to an “unknown father.”
Do lawyers charge a set fee for a stepparent adoption?
Sometimes. In adoption proceedings lawyers charge either on an hourly basis or a set fee. The lawyer might charge a set fee if the amount of services the adoption will take can be accurately projected, such as when it is certain the other parent will consent to the adoption. If all the pieces are not in place, lawyers will charge their usual hourly rate.