Adoption is one of the few areas of law where the legal process can put a smile on people’s faces. If you are considering adopting a child, or if you are a child’s biological parent seeking a family for your child (or unborn child), you should seek the assistance of a family law attorney with experience in the adoption field.
Adoption is only possible when the birth parents have voluntarily given up their parental rights or their rights are terminated by the court. Further, even if a parent is willing to give up his or her parental rights, the court typically will not approve the arrangement unless an adopting person is available to step in and fill their shoes.
The adoption process can be straightforward if all parties to the process have consented and can proceed without contest. However, it is not enough to simply have the consent of all parties. Rather, the court also must determine that the adoption is in the best interests of the child. In order to do this, the court will generally appoint a guardian ad litem to conduct an investigation and report their recommendations to the court as it relates to the adoption. The adopting parents also must complete a background check. The process can be expedited when the adopting parents are relatives.
When the prospective adoption is contested by one or both of the biological parents, or the name and/or whereabouts of one of the parents is unknown, the process can be slightly more complicated. Reasonable efforts must be made to locate the biological parent(s) and inform them of the proceedings (formal service of process should be made). An exception can be made for a biological father who fails to sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or register with the Illinois Putative Father Registry within 30 days of the child’s birth.
If a parent is deemed to be “unfit” their parental rights may be terminated involuntarily. The Illinois Adoption Act provides for a detailed list of grounds to determine whether a parent may be deemed “unfit.” Some of the grounds for a finding of unfitness may include:
- Failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility as to the child’s welfare;
- Substantial neglect, if continuous or repeated;
- Extreme or repeated cruelty to the child;
- Drug or alcohol abuse; and
- Failure to adequately provide for the child.
There are also certain grounds which if met may be lead to a rebuttable presumption that a parent is unfit.
At Kollias & Giese, P.C. we are dedicated to advising our clients about all the legal requirements and implications of adoption in Illinois, helping them to avoid potential pitfalls and take all the necessary steps for a smooth transition to life as a new family. If you are considering adoption in Illinois, we would be glad to provide you information about various agencies and resources available to potential adopters, as well as about the legal requirements for adoption.
For more information about adoption in Illinois, and an initial discussion regarding your personal situation, please contact the experienced attorneys at Kollias & Giese, P.C.