Adoption can be a life-changing experience for a child. While most people think of divorce litigation and heated custody battles when they think of family court, many positive experiences come from family law proceedings in the Metro East area. Mixed families are becoming more common throughout the United States. It is not uncommon for stepparents to assume primary parental roles in children’s lives. In some situations, adoption is possible. Seeing this process through can provide an adopted child with all of the legal rights and protections afforded to a biological child.
If you are planning to marry a new partner who already has a child, or if you have a child from a previous relationship and your co-parent is no longer part of your child’s life, adoption could be on the horizon in your future. It’s important to understand the value of legal representation during a formal, legal adoption process and how your attorney will assist you during adoption proceedings.
Criteria for Adoption in Metro East
Adoption rules in Illinois may appear somewhat vague at first, but there are various steps to complete in the adoption process. The basic requirement for petitioning for adoption in Illinois is residency in the state for at least six months prior to the petition. However, this residency requirement is waived in any case involving the adoption of a relative. The adoptive parent must reside in the adoptive home. If the adoptive parent is married, their spouse must join the petition.
Any child of any age may be legally adopted in Illinois. It is possible for a child to remain in the care of one biological parent and one adoptive parent or two adoptive parents. Illinois state law does require consent for the adoption of children over the age of 14. In this situation, the child must agree to the decision for the adoption to proceed. It is also possible to adopt an adult in Illinois, with the adopted adult’s consent.
Depending on the nature of the adoptive parent’s relationship with the adoptee and/or the adoptee’s other parent, a court-ordered home inspection may be necessary for the adoption to proceed. For example, suppose a biological parent has started a relationship with a new partner. They move in together with the child to be adopted. In that case, the court will have an inspector visit the home to ensure it is safe and appropriate for the child. This inspector will also evaluate the adoptive parent and generally get to know the family dynamics to determine whether the adoption would be in the child’s best interests.
Relinquishment or Loss of Parental Rights
There are generally only three ways an adoptive parent can assume the role of a biological parent:
- One or both of the child’s biological parents have died.
- A biological parent has relinquished their parental rights in a formal document.
- One or both of the child’s biological parents have been found unsafe or unfit to retain their parental rights.
Depending on your unique situation, it may be necessary to reach out to a child’s other biological parent or parents to obtain their relinquishment forms. If a biological parent cannot be located, Illinois state law provides a one-year statute of limitations for contesting adoption rulings.
It is possible for a parent to lose their parental rights. If the parent committed violent felonies, committed any type of domestic violence, or harmed their children in any way, any Illinois judge would likely revoke their parental rights. A parent who has lost their parental rights in this manner may have no way of contesting this decision.
Adoption Records, Name Changes, and Birth Certificates
Some of the most important documents that come into play in Metro East, IL adoption cases are the records themselves. Illinois recently made it easier for adopted children to secure their original birth certificates. However, the recent changes to Illinois adoption record laws also allowed biological parents to keep their identities hidden on adoption records.
If adoptive parents wish to change their adopted child’s last name to their own, they must complete a name change process as well. This requires filling out various forms and submitting them to the appropriate agencies. An experienced Metro East adoption attorney can assist with this process.
It is not uncommon for a single parent to start a new relationship and eventually remarry. If their child’s other parent is completely out of the picture one way or another, then adoption may seem like the family’s natural choice. A name change is a relatively simple process that also generates a new official birth certificate for the adoptee whose name has changed. Adopted children may also secure copies of their original birth certificates. However, Illinois confidentiality laws for adoption records means they cannot be sure their birth parents’ names will be listed.
The result of an adoption is that the adopted child will have the same legal rights as a biological child. Adoption provides legal security for a family, ensuring that the adopted child will have access to their inheritance and status as a parent’s beneficiary the same way a biological child would. Adoption can also provide more cohesion to a mixed family and help an adopted child feel more like part of a family.
In some cases, it may be difficult to approach the subject of adoption, especially with an older child who may not fully understand the process and still has strong emotional ties to their other parent. However, a good Metro East adoption lawyer can help a family understand the full range of benefits adoption could provide to their situation.
Ultimately, adoption is a legal security blanket for any child in the care of one or more non-biological parents. There are many steps to the adoption process in Illinois, but it is well worth the effort to provide a child with the same legal rights and protections a biological child has under state laws. If you are considering adoption in the Metro East, IL area, contact an experienced attorney to learn more about how Illinois laws will apply in your situation.