Adopting a child can be overwhelming but hiring an experienced attorney will help you navigate the process.
A specified adoption is one in which the biological parent(s) hand-picks (specifies) who will adopt his/her child. Often, a specified adoption involves the cooperation of at least one, but sometimes both biological parents.
If a biological parent’s rights to the adoptive child have been established, he or she is defined as a “legal parent”. A woman’s parental rights are automatically established at the time of the child’s birth. A man’s parental rights can be established in one of two ways: 1) by the man signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity at the time of the child’s birth and adding his name to the child’s birth certificate; or 2) by taking a DNA paternity test and formally establishing his rights through the Court. If the man has not done either of those, he is defined as a “putative father”.
Consent – Legal Parent
If someone is a legal parent, he or she must be notified that an adoption case has been opened, and he or she may only consent to the adoption by signing a formal document in the presence of a Judge. If the Judge is satisfied that the legal parent has been properly notified and understands the full consequences of consenting, the Judge will acknowledge the consent.
Although there are a few exceptions, once a consent has been properly executed and acknowledged by the Judge, it generally cannot be revoked and is considered final.
Waiver – Putative Father
If a man has been identified as a putative father, his consent to the adoption is not necessary. However, he should still be notified that he has been identified as a possible father and given the opportunity to waive or pursue his rights to the child, whichever the case may be.
Unlike the consent needed from a legal father, the waiver of parental rights only needs to be signed in the presence of a Notary Public. However, a waiver is also generally considered final and may not be revoked once signed.
Finding of Unfitness
If the legal parent will not consent the adoption could still proceed if the legal parent is determined unfit. Unfitness in the sense of parental rights is determined by a lengthy list outlined in the Illinois Adoption Act. For example, a parent might be found unfit if he or she neglected, abused or committed a crime against a child; he or she abandoned the child; he or she failed to financially provide for the child; or any of many others possible factors.
Each unfitness factor in and of itself could be enough to terminate a parent’s rights, but the more applicable unfitness factors, the higher the likelihood of success for the adoptive parents.
Best Interests of the Child
All adoptions, whether by consent or finding of unfitness, must meet the same overall burden of proof, which is that the adoption is in the best interest of the child. To help the Court determine whether an adoption is in the child’s best interest, a Guardian ad Litem (“GAL” for short) will be appointed.
A GAL is an attorney, and his or her sole purpose of becoming involved in an adoption is to investigate the applicable facts and circumstances. The GAL will likely interview the adoptive parents and the child and may possibly interview the legal parent(s) or putative father. The GAL may also choose to conduct a home study to determine whether the adoptive parent(s)’ home is a good fit for the child. If the GAL believes any other elements need to be investigated, he or she may do so within their discretion.
Once the GAL feels the investigation is complete, he or she will write a report. The report will include a summary of the relevant facts, the factors considered, the findings of the Guardian ad Litem and finally, his or her recommendation as to whether the adoption is in the child’s best interest.
Decree of Adoption
If the Court determines that the adoptive parents have met their burden of proving the adoption the child’s best interest, a Judgment and Decree of Adoption will be entered. This decree will terminate any legal parent or putative father’s parental rights, confirm that the adoption is, in fact, in the child’s best interest, and grant and finalize the adoption.
Once finalized, the adoptive parent(s) become the legal parents of the child, as if that child had been naturally born to the parent or parents. The child would then be able to inherit from the adoptive parents, is considered a full, legal sibling to any other children of the adoptive parent(s) and can legally change his or her name to match that of his or her new adoptive family. The adoptive parents can even have the child’s birth certificate corrected accordingly.
The adoption process is intricate and should not be attempted without the assistance of an attorney, but the lawyers of Hicks & Spector are experienced. If you, or any one you know is considering an adoption by consent, we are here to help in every way possible. Contact us now to schedule your free one-hour consultation. The sooner you do, the sooner you could reach your goal of adopting a child!
If you, or any one you know is considering an adoption by consent, we are here to assist in every way possible. Contact us now to schedule your free one-hour consultation. The sooner you do, the sooner you can reach your destination as an adoptive parent!