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Adoption When the Father is Unknown in Illinois

Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
November 1, 2019

In this article we explain the adoption process when the father is unknown in Illinois.  We explain fathers’ rights in Illinois adoption and answer the questions “who qualifies as a putative father for the purpose of Illinois adoption?”, “what is the putative father registry?”, and “what if the father is unknown in an Illinois adoption case?”

For some foundational information, check out our article: The Illinois Adoption Process Explained.

Fathers’ Rights in Illinois Adoption

If a mother seeks to place a child for adoption in Illinois or have her spouse adopt her child, she must first obtain the consent of the biological father or terminate the father's parental rights.  The biological father must also be made a party to the adoption proceeding.  

If the mother is unsure who the biological father is, everyone who qualifies as a “putative father” according to the Illinois Adoption Act must be added as a party to the adoption case.  

Who Qualifies as a Putative Father For the Purpose of Illinois Adoption?

According to the Illinois Adoption Act a Putative Father is a potential father who meets one of the following criteria:

  • A man who was married to the mother on the date of the child’s birth or within 300 days prior to the child’s birth; 
  • A man who has been named as the father according to an order of parentage or a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity; 
  • A man who openly lived with the child or the mother and held himself out to be the father during the first 30 days after the child’s birth; 
  • A man who made a good faith effort to pay reasonable expenses related to the birth of the child and to provide financial support for the child during the first 30 days of the child’s life; 
  • A man who has maintained substantial and continuous or repeated contact with the child;  
  • A man who openly lived with the child for a period of 6 months within the one year period immediately preceding the placement of the child for adoption and held himself out to be the father of the child; or 
  • Has timely registered with the Putative Father Registry. 

It is important to note that not all of these definitions of the term “Putative Father” apply in all situations.  A careful reading of the Adoption Act in light of the facts of your particular case is required in order to determine who is actually considered a Putative Father in your case. 

What is the Putative Father Registry?

The Putative Father Registry allows potential biological fathers to register within 30 days of the birth of the child in order to establish rights to notice prior to adoption as a Putative Father.  The burden is on the man to register, even if the mother tells him that he is not the father or conceals the existence of the child.  If a man fails to timely register and does not meet any of the other requirements to be considered a putative father, he will lose his right to be named as a party if the child is put up for adoption.  

What if the Father is Unknown in an Illinois Adoption Case?

If the identity of the father is unknown and there is no Putative Father, the mother can request that the court name “ALL WHOM IT MAY CONCERN, unknown birth father”” as a party to the adoption proceeding.  In this case, the mother must publish notice of the adoption case in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the case is pending.  If no one responds to the notice, the rights of the unknown biological father can then be terminated by the court. 

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Who Qualifies as a Putative Father For the Purpose of Illinois Adoption?

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