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Oak Park IL family law attorneyIn today's world, there is no such thing as an "average" family. Years ago, the traditional mother, father, and baby set-up was the norm, but nowadays, things are much different. According to the 2018 American Community Survey conducted by the Census Bureau, more than 6 million people lived in a household with a child who is not biologically related to them, including in a stepfamily. One reason for this is that many people who get divorced end up getting remarried, which often creates blended families, bringing children from prior marriages together in one household.

One question that may go through any stepparent's mind is whether they can adopt their stepchild. While there is definitely a legal way to adopt a stepchild, it can be a somewhat complicated process. There are many details pertaining to the adoption process that you will have to understand and address before you are able to adopt your stepchild.

Determining Adoption Eligibility

Before you can adopt your stepchild, you must be sure that you actually qualify to adopt him or her. In Illinois, adopting a stepchild requires:

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Hillside stepparent adoption lawyerMany people who get divorced often find love and happiness again in second marriages. A step-family, sometimes called a “blended” or “bonus” family, is a family in which at least one parent has children from a previous marriage or relationship. Blended families can be wonderful, especially when step-parents wish to adopt the children of their spouse as a way of making their family more “complete.” This is referred to as a related adoption, since one of the adoptive parents is related to the child who is being adopted. In fact, this is the most common form of adoption in North America. 

A step-parent who adopts his or her stepchild agrees to become that child’s legal parent and to be fully responsible for the child until the child is an adult. Once the adoption is final, the other biological parent’s name is replaced with the adopting parent’s name on the child’s birth certificate. In some cases, the child’s name may also be changed on the birth certificate.

Usually, a step-parent adoption is easier and takes less time to accomplish than other kinds of adoption. While other adoptions usually involve two new parents, a step-parent adoption basically just “replaces” one parent. In addition, a court will typically expedite the adoption process when one of the parents is deceased, since it is in the best interests of the child to have two parents. In this situation, a step-parent will just need to show the death certificate as proof.

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Hillside stepparent adoption lawyerIn the United States, a divorce is granted about once every 36 seconds, adding up to approximately 2,400 marriages ended every day. Although the divorce rate is 40% lower for families with children, nearly 50% of children born to married couples will witness the dissolution of their biological parents' marriage by the time they reach age 18. Many studies document the negative effects of divorce on children, but having two parents who stay involved with their children can minimize many of these effects. However, if one parent is willingly absent, a stepparent adoption can provide many benefits to both parents and children.

What It Means for a Stepparent to Adopt

There are more blended families in the United States today than ever before in history. The “his, hers, and ours” family is becoming commonplace, along with same-sex family adoptions. It has become well established that the term “family” does not necessarily refer to any existing biological link, but refers instead to who you choose to love and who loves you in return. 

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