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Wheaton relative adoption lawyer

Adoption is the legal process for assuming parental responsibilities for another person’s child. Adopting a child from an agency is an option for couples to grow their family if they cannot conceive on their own. However, there are other types of adoption, including stepparent adoption. In these cases, an individual with a stepson or stepdaughter may want to consider legally becoming the child's parent. If you are considering a stepparent adoption, speaking with an experienced family law attorney can ease your concerns as you walk through the legal process in Illinois.

A Relative Adoption Versus an Agency Adoption

A stepparent adoption does not involve the same process as an international or Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) adoption. Here are a couple of differences between them:

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Lombard, IL adoption attorney

The decision and privilege to pursue adoption is an exciting, gratifying path when you desire to expand your family. More than ever before, today’s adoption services offer new parents opportunities to share their life with a child who is in need of a good home. However, adoption proceedings are complex and require serious preparation in order to navigate them successfully. For the sake of all parties involved, it is important to understand the legal aspects to make the adoption experience as seamless as possible.

Know Your Rights

It is not uncommon for new parents to feel instantly overwhelmed the moment they begin the adoption process. From selecting an agency to the application and paperwork, it can be difficult to know where to start. One of the most important ways you can get off on the right foot is to inform yourself of your basic rights as a new adoptive parent. What do you have a say over? What resources are available to you? Should you run into roadblocks, what rights do you have to protect your best interests?

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Can I Get Financial Help With My Adoption?It is no secret that adoption is expensive. Many families wish they could adopt but simply cannot afford the additional expenses that are tied to adoption. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, private agency adoptions can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $40,000. This price tag does not include any of the costs associated with raising a child, which can steer couples hoping to start a family away from considering adoption. Foster care adoption is the most financially-friendly option available to potential parents. In many cases, the adoption gets funded by the state, with few fees involved aside from an attorney’s assistance in the legal process. There are even some instances that allow adopting couples to qualify for continued compensation.

What is Title IV-E Adoption Assistance?

Unfortunately, foster children get adopted at a much lower rate, especially those with special needs. The medical expenses or other costs that are unique to a special needs child can keep couples from considering taking them in. What many do not realize is that adoption assistance is available to parents of special needs children adopted through the foster system. Federal adoption assistance is known as Title IV-E, whereas state assistance is non-IV-E. Both forms of assistance can provide monthly maintenance payments, medical assistance, and other support until the child turns 18 or, in some cases, 21 years old. There are three criteria that must be met to qualify for special needs determination:

  1. The state determines that the child cannot or should not return to their birth parents’ home;
  2. A specific factor, condition, or a combination of the two has made the child more difficult to place for adoption; and
  3. Unsuccessful efforts have been made to place the child without using adoption assistance.

What Makes a Child Eligible for Title IV-E?

The eligibility listed above must be met before a child will be considered to receive Title IV-E adoption assistance. There are five qualifications tied to Title IV-E; however, only one must be met to qualify for the assistance:

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What is an Adoption Home Study and How Can I Prepare?The adoption process is quite lengthy and requires lots of preparation in order for you to be ready to immediately care for your new child. A home study is one step of many in the adoption process. The purpose of a home study is to ensure that you and your spouse are good potential parents who can provide a child with a safe and happy home. The home study is more than just a house inspection. The inspector will also spend time interviewing both parents to gauge their character and parenting ability. This part of the adoption process can be extremely nerve-wracking but is also the part of adoption that you have the most control over.

What Should I Bring to My Home Study?

Home studies vary depending on the type of adoption that you and your spouse decide is best. However, the primary goal and document requirements remain fairly consistent. Home studies often take longer than a single visit, sometimes taking months to fully complete. The best way to reduce the amount of time spent in the home inspection is to educate yourself on the process and have the necessary documents in hand. These can include:

  • Certified copies of birth certificates;
  • Adoption decrees for any other adopted children;
  • A marriage certificate;
  • Death certificates of former spouses;
  • Divorce papers for you and your spouse;
  • Employment and income verification;
  • Proof of life and health insurance;
  • A list of assets;
  • Debt information; and
  • Mortgage or rent information. 

The interview also requires physical exam results as well as a public health and fire inspection for your home. While the paperwork may seem daunting, it is crucial that you bring multiple copies of each form to avoid scheduling additional appointments. 

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How to Be a Stepparent – Legally and Emotionally Because divorce is so common, having a stepparent or becoming one has also become less of a rarity over time. Children whose parents divorce and remarry at a young age often see this as their norm. Because they grew with it, there is nothing outside of the ordinary about having more parental figures than just the people who are biologically related to you. This is not the case with children or teens whose parents get divorced when they are old enough to remember a life when their parents were married. A stepparent can seem like a foreign concept. The emotional transition can be just as difficult, if not more, as the legal process to becoming an “official” parent through adoption.

What Does the Legal Process Look Like?

An individual is considered a child’s “stepparent” once they marry the child’s biological parent. However, in the eyes of the court, this person has no legal rights with the child. Becoming a legal guardian of a child as a stepparent can be difficult. A child can only have two legal guardians, thus the other biological parent must give up their legal rights in order for the child to gain a new legal guardian. Stepparent adoptions are most common when the other biological parent has passed away. If this is the case, the only permission needed is the stepparent’s spouse. From there, the process is similar to other adoptions. Legal documents must be completed, interviews conducted, and a decision made about whether or not the stepparent is fit to adopt the child.

How Can I Be a Good Stepparent?

Taking on the responsibility of a stepparent is no easy task. Children or teens are typically resistant to the change at first. To them, you can appear to be taking the place of their deceased parent or overstepping your bounds. The following are tips on how to ease into the stepparent role:

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