Divorce and Family Law
Expanding your family via Illinois adoption is an incredible, rewarding experience that enables you to share your love and welcome a child into your home. However, as you compare the different types of adoption, legal process, and requirements, you might soon become overwhelmed. There are multiple tasks you need to complete even before initiating an adoption case, and you must have all documentation in order when you head to court. Mistakes can lead to delays and legal hassles you never expected.
Bruning & Associates, P.C. has skillfully guided families in the Adoption process since our inception. The experienced lawyers at our Chicago, Schaumburg, and Crystal Lake offices will answer all of your questions regarding the Adoption process and will represent your family in court, with adoption agencies, and with birth parents. Please contact our firm today to set up a no-cost consultation with an Illinois adoption lawyer who can provide details for your unique situation. Some background information is also helpful.
Before getting to the details of the legal process, you should first understand who qualifies to adopt and be adopted in Illinois. Under the Illinois Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/0.01) you are eligible to adopt if:
- You are 18 years or older.
- You are a “reputable” adult, which generally means you have a clear criminal record and no history of substance abuse.
- You have resided in the State of Illinois for at least six months continually.
- Your spouse is joining in the adoption application, for married couples.
Note in some cases a minor can adopt when there is good cause. An example of a scenario where the courts could allow this would be a sibling adoption after the death of their parents. In addition, you can request that the court waive the residency requirement when adopting a relative.
Any child can be adopted, but he or she must consent if aged 14 or older. It is even possible to adopt an adult relative or an adult who has resided in your home for at least two years.
Understanding Different Types of Adoption
Another important point as you contemplate your options is learning about the forms of adoption available under Illinois law.
When you seek to legally adopt a family member, the process is quite simplified because many requirements can be waived. One of the most common forms of related adoption is when a stepparent adopts the child of his or her spouse, but grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles are often in the position to adopt a relative.
Working with an Agency
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) places children for adoption, often after a period of fostering. There are also numerous private adoption agencies that are licensed to work with you through the process. The advantage when working with an agency is that the biological mother and father have already had their parental rights legally terminated.
One common form of adoption in this category occurs when parents work with a surrogate. Some private adoptions are through a mother who agrees to the adoption while still pregnant or shortly after birth. The adoptive parents receive the child without DCFS or agency involvement.
Some adoptive parents look outside the US to adopt a child, and the rules can be extremely complicated. Many international adoptions are facilitated by agencies to handle requirements in the child’s home country, but then there are additional requisites under Illinois law.
Keep in mind that the adoption rules and requirements are no different for same-sex couples, who have all the same rights and responsibilities.
Steps in the Illinois Adoption Process
There are multiple stages to the legal process, and you can trust the Illinois adoption lawyers at Bruning & Associates, P.C. to help you navigate them. Every case is different, so you may not go through every step. The proceedings work as follows:
Termination of the Biological Parents’ Rights
A child can only be adopted if the rights of the biological mother and father have been terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily.
Voluntary termination is basically an agreement to adoption by the biological parents, who must sign a final, irrevocable consent form. The document must be signed before a judge or court official, but the mother cannot sign a consent form within 72 hours after the child’s birth. The biological father can execute the consent at any time, even prior to birth; however, he can revoke consent within the 72-hour timeframe.
Involuntary termination of parental rights is subject to a court proceeding, where a judge will rule on whether the biological mother or father is unfit. The individual seeking involuntary termination must have clear and convincing evidence to prevail.
As mentioned, termination of parental rights will already be accomplished if you are working with an agency. Plus, this requirement does not apply when adopting an adult.
Filing the Adoption Petition
To initiate the case, you must file the petition, along with:
- The signed consent form from one or both biological parents.
- A court order involuntarily terminating parental rights.
- A death certificate, if a biological mother or father is deceased.
Interim Order Hearing
Depending on the circumstances, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interests. The judge may also order a court official to investigate the home environment, run background checks, and obtain other important information.
Once 6 months have passed after the interim order hearing, the court will hold a hearing on adoption. If all requirements have been met, the judge will enter an order finalizing the adoption process.
Get Legal Advice from Our Illinois Adoption Attorneys
When you have experienced representation to assist with the legal process and requirements, you can focus on the most important part of adoption: Getting your home ready to welcome a new family member. For more information, please contact Bruning & Associates, P.C. to schedule your free consultation with an experienced Illinois adoption attorney. We have offices conveniently located near you in Chicago, Schaumburg, and Crystal Lake, Illinois.
Serving clients in adoption cases in northern Illinois, including Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, McHenry County, Lake County, Will County, Boone County, DeKalb County, Kendall County, LaSalle County, and Winnebago County.