Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

Proceeding with a Stepparent Adoption

March 3rd, 2015 at 7:00 am

adoption, divorce, Illinois family lawyerThere is no law that says families have to be related by blood or by marriage. In fact, Illinois adoption law says the exact opposite.

While adoption often involves a single- or two-parent household bringing a new child into the family, that is not the only type of adoption. When a parent divorces and later remarries, the new spouse becomes a stepparent. In some cases, stepparents might want to officially adopt their spouse’s children. Stepparent adoption is one of the most common types of adoption and is a fairly simple process in Illinois.

However, adoption is not always an option for stepparents. There are three things that are important to understand about stepparent adoption:

  1. Stepparents looking to adopt their spouse’s children must be married to the custodial parent. Put another way, if the child’s other parent has residential or sole custody of the child, adoption as a stepparent is not likely to occur.

  2. Illinois law does not permit a child to have three legal parents. For the stepparent to adopt the spouse’s child, the other parent must terminate his or her parental rights (thereby forgoing all custody, visitation, and other parental rights afforded by law). If the other parent is deceased, such consent is unnecessary.

  3. If the other parent does not consent, the stepparent adoption may still proceed if the other parent is proven to be unfit.

Establishing Parental Unfitness

Statutory grounds for parental unfitness include, but are not limited:

  • Abandoning the child;
  • Deserting the child for a three-month period before the process of adoption;
  • Failure to maintain interest in or responsibility for the child’s well-being;
  • Failure to show interest in a newborn in the first 30 days following the child’s birth;
  • Failure to pay child support or attempt to provide financial support, despite being able to do so;
  • Evidence of repeated physical abuse; or
  • Statutory neglect.

Seeking the Child’s Consent

Stepparents also have to seek written consent from the child if the child is at least 14 years old. Once all parties have given their consent, or a parent has been found unfit, then the adoption process can proceed. The entire process can be completed within 90 days. (If the stepparent must establish parental unfitness, then the process will take longer.)

Putative Fathers

Keep in mind that a child born out of wedlock can also be adopted by a stepparent. The biological father can still object to the adoption as long as he registered with the Putative Father Registry within 30 days of the child’s birth.

If you are interested in adopting your stepchildren, contact one of our Chicago adoption attorneys to discuss your case today. We will help facilitate the process of adoption and answer any questions you may have. With office locations in Schaumburg, Wheaton, Northbrook, Orland Park and downtown Chicago, we are well-suited to serve the needs of clients throughout the region.

Consenting to Your Child’s Adoption

February 24th, 2015 at 9:35 am

adoption in Illinois, Chicago adoption and family law attorneyIn some circumstances, parents are not able to provide a financially stable home or give their children the life they want them to have. Illinois law allows for birth parents to put their children up for adoption in order to offer a better future. Here are a few things to know if you are a parent who feels this is the best option for your child or if you are a hopeful parent who wants to adopt.

A child is available for adoption when:

  • He has been surrendered for adoption to an agency, and the agency has consented to that adoption;
  • A person authorized by law, other than the child’s parents, consents to the adoption, or when no consent is necessary;
  • He is in the custody of persons who intend to adopt him through placement made by his parents;
  • A parent has signed a specific consent to adoption; or
  • He has been relinquished pursuant to the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act.

Consent, Surrender and Waiver

A consent or surrender is generally required before a child is available for adoption. However, neither is required if the court finds:

  • The person is an unfit parent by clear and convincing evidence;
  • The person is not the child’s biological or adoptive father;
  • The person waived his or her parental rights;
  • The person is the father as a result of criminal sexual abuse or assault;
  • The father is a family member of the mother, and the mother was under 18 years old when the child was conceived; or
  • The father is at least five years older than the mother, and the mother was under 17 years old when the child was conceived (unless the parents voluntarily acknowledge the father’s paternity).

If a waiver, consent or surrender is needed to complete the adoption, there are several timing requirements that must be followed:

  1. No consent or surrender can be signed within the 72-hour period immediately following the child’s birth.
  2. If the consent or surrender is signed 72 hours after the child’s birth, then it is generally irrevocable.
  3. The child’s father may sign a consent or surrender before birth. The father may revoke his consent or surrender if he notifies the agency or court representative who acknowledged the consent or surrender within 72 hours after the child’s birth. A consent/surrender that is not revoked within this time period is irrevocable.
  4. A parent may consent to a standby adoption that will become effective when the consenting parent dies or requests that the final judgment of adoption be entered.
  5. A putative father or legal father may sign a waiver of his parental rights at any time prior to or after the child’s birth. A waiver generally is irrevocable.

Contact one of our Chicago adoption attorneys at Anderson & Associates, P.C. if you have any questions about the adoption process in Illinois or about the consequences of signing a consent, surrender or waiver. We have offices in Schaumburg, Wheaton, Northbrook, Orland Park and downtown Chicago.

Voluntary and Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

February 12th, 2015 at 10:11 am

parental rights in Illinois, Chicago IL child custody attorneyBeing a parent is both a responsibility and a privilege. The basic responsibilities– contributing to your child’s care and support–are fairly straightforward. Parental privileges are a little more obscure and vary by family. Legally, however, parenting is a privilege because parental status comes attached with certain rights, such as the right to make decisions regarding the child.  It also comes with responsibilities, such as contributing to the child’s financial support.

Note that parental rights can be terminated and the legal parent-child relationship destroyed. Under these circumstances, the parent relinquishes the responsibilities and the privileges, including the right to be part of the child’s life. The child also loses any legal obligations toward the parent.

Parental rights can be terminated voluntarily, or involuntarily, if:

  • The parent surrenders the child to an authorized agency for adoption;
  • The parent consents to the child’s adoption;
  • The parent waives his parental rights as pursuant to putative father laws; or
  • A court determines that the parent is unfit and then appoints a guardian ad litem who is authorized to consent to adoption.

Parental unfitness must be established by clear and convincing evidence and does not turn on the best interests of the child. Common grounds for unfitness are:

  • Child abandonment;
  • Substantial neglect;
  • Failure to maintain interest, concern or responsibility for the child’s welfare;
  • Deserting the child for a three-month period prior to the adoption;
  • Physical abuse;
  • Depravity (i.e., conviction for certain serious crimes, including murder);
  • Failure to protect the child from dangerous conditions; or
  • Failure to contribute to the support the child despite having the physical and financial ability to do so.

Once the court rules on the termination of parental rights, it must next consider the best interests of the child. For example, should the child be placed in a foster home or adopted by a family member? The court will decide; the former parent does not have a say.

Reestablishing Parental Rights by Petitioning for Adoption

Former parents may sometimes reestablish their parental rights by petitioning for adoption. The child is eligible for adoption if:

  • The child was a ward of the state when the parental rights were terminated; and
  • The child was adopted by blood relatives who have since died without appointing a standby guardian or adoptive parent; or
  • The adoptive parent has a physical or mental impairment rendering him unable to care for the child, and he consents to the adoption petition.

Adoption eligibility is not the only criteria. The parent must also prove that the adoption is in the child’s best interest and that the former parent is willing and able to care for the child. The petition will likely hinge on the initial basis for terminating parental rights, as well as the steps the parent has since taken to resolve the issues existing at the time of the termination.

If you are a parent facing involuntary termination–or seeking voluntary termination–of parental rights, contact one of our Chicago family law attorneys today. We will help you understand your legal rights and the legal consequences of termination. Contact us today for a consultation. Anderson & Associates, P.C. has offices in Schaumburg, Wheaton, Northbrook, Orland Park and downtown Chicago.