A stepparent adoption occurs when a stepparent adopts his or her marital partner’s child. Illinois residents who are considering adopting their stepchild should consider all of the positive and negative issues that may arise.
Stepparent adoptions are a type of relative adoption, which is an adoption of a child by someone who is related to the child by marriage or blood. Concerning matters of custody, inheritance, consent, surnames and other legal issues, there is no distinction that is made between a biological child and an adopted child.
There are legal reasons for adopting a stepchild. An adoption can circumvent inheritance issues, placing all of the children living in the household on equal footing. If the biological parent of the child dies, then issues such as guardianship and medical release are already settled. However, if the biological parent dies and the stepparent has not adopted the child, the stepparent has no legal relationship with the child. Temporary guardianship would be determined by the court, and if the other biological parent is alive, the child would mostly likely reside with that parent.
There are also valid reasons for not adopting a stepchild. If a stepparent has any concerns about the longevity of his or her marriage, it may not be a wise idea to form a permanent, legal bond with the child. Stepparents should also refrain from using adoption as a tool to solve conflict within the household. There are other legal relationships a stepparent can pursue in lieu of an adoption. For example, guardianship allows a stepparent a voice in matters such as medical consent and education.
Adoption establishes a permanent legal relationship between a stepparent and a stepchild and requires serious consideration. A family law attorney can describe the steps that need to be taken if a decision is made to go forward with the process.