Stepparents can play a very important role in the life of a child. Sometimes, stepparents enter the picture when a child is still very young. Children may grow up having a closer relationship with their stepfather or stepmother than with their biological parent of the same sex. Technically, an Illinois stepparent has made a commitment to their spouse, not the children that their spouse has from a prior relationship. If that spouse were to die or the couple decided to divorce, the stepparent would be at risk of completely losing their relationship with their stepchild.
A stepparent adoption changes the legal relationship between a stepparent and a stepchild. It gives the stepparent legal rights and extends certain protections to the stepchild. Who needs to approve of a stepparent adoption for it to proceed in Illinois?
Both current legal parents need to approve
The most basic requirement for a stepparent adoption will be the consent of someone’s spouse. Obviously, if they oppose the adoption, then the stepparent likely has no choice but to accept their current relationship with their stepchild.
If someone’s spouse agrees to a proposed stepparent adoption, then the next step would be to seek the permission of the other parent. If the other parent of the stepchild has died or the state terminated their parental rights, then their permission isn’t necessary.
Otherwise, even parents who do not pay child support or spend time with the child still need to give their consent. The other biological parent of a stepchild will usually need to sign paperwork terminating their parental rights for a stepparent to adopt a stepchild.
Occasionally, the child may also need to give their consent for the adoption to take place. In Illinois, if the stepchild is 14 or older, they will need to give permission for the adoption.
The final party that needs to approve a stepparent adoption is an Illinois family law judge. A judge will need to look over someone’s paperwork and review the circumstances to ensure that a stepparent adoption would be in the best interests of the child. Provided that the judge agrees that the adoption would be beneficial, their approval is usually the final step in the stepparent adoption process.
Understanding the need for consent and approval may help people know what to expect as they pursue a stepparent adoption.