A stepparent adoption is one in which the spouse of a child's custodial parent adopts that child.

In Illinois, a stepparent adoption can be a relatively easy process if the mother or father of the child consents to the adoption. An adoption can proceed without consent if there are statutory grounds for unfitness of the parent.

Some of these statutory grounds are abandonment, failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest or responsibility as to the child's welfare, desertion of the child for more than three months preceding the beginning of the adoption proceeding, substantial neglect and physical abuse.

Additional grounds are depravity, failure to show concern for 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 and failure to provide a reasonable amount of financial support for the child. Non-payment of child support may be the basis for adoption.

In a stepparent adoption, the biological father and mother need not have been married. However the father of a non-marital child, to preserve his rights, must within 30 days after the birth of the child, register the child with the Putative Father Registry. If he does not register, he may not have standing to object to the adoption.

A parent who consents to adoption does not have legally enforceable visitation rights. In that situation, all parental rights are fully terminated. The parties, however, can work out an informal agreement for contact or visitation, but these arrangements are not legally enforceable.

In most stepparent adoptions, no home study investigation is required.

The process can be completed as quickly as 30 days from the time the proceedings began; however, it usually takes at least seven or eight weeks. The timing depends on obtaining consent from the birth father.

If the identity or whereabouts of the parent is unknown, a notice may be served against the parent in the newspaper in the county where the adoption is taking place. A copy of the notice is also mailed to the parent at his last known address. A notice may be published to an "unknown parent."

In adoption proceedings, a lawyer usually charges on an hourly basis for a set fee. If the amount of time it takes to complete the adoption can be accurately projected, the lawyer may charge a set fee.

For further information about law-related issues, contact an Illinois State Bar Association member-lawyer in your area or visit www.isbalawyers.com.

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