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How does stepparent adoption work? (Part 2)

As noted previously here on our Rockford family law blog, stepparents seeking to adopt their stepchildren will need to obtain the consent of the child's other birth parent (assuming that person hasn't already lost his or her parental rights). There are certain measures, however, that stepparents may be able to take within the family law system in order to terminate the other birth parent's rights and move ahead with the adoption even if that person does not consent to it.

If the non-consenting birth parent claims to be the child's father, the most direct route to terminating parental rights is to demonstrate that he does not meet the criteria in Illinois for being the presumed father of the child. This will depend on factors like whether he was married to the child's mother when the child was born, whether he was named on the birth certificate, and potentially other circumstances surrounding the birth. Once it's established that a man fails to meet the legal criteria to be a child's presumed father, his parental rights will end and a stepparent adoption can proceed without his consent.

If this is not possible, one can attempt to show that the other parent is either unfit, or that he or she abandoned the child. A court may rule a parent unfit based on imprisonment, addiction, abuse, neglect or similar concerns. A parent's rights may also be terminated if that person has left the child's life or failed to meet child support obligations for a significant length of time -- known as abandonment.

As a stepparent seeking to adopt a stepchild, working with a family law professional can help strengthen and protect your case. If the other birth parent consents, the process may move rather quickly. But particularly if the adoption needs to overcome that person's lack of consent, a legal representative familiar with the different strategies can be a valuable asset.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Stepparent Adoption FAQ's," accessed on Nov. 4, 2017

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