The purpose of this article is to explain the Illinois adoption process. Adoption in Illinois is governed by the Illinois Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/0.01, et seq.). Our DuPage adoption attorneys lay out the different types of adoption in Illinois, who is eligible to adopt and be adopted, the process for terminating the biological parents' parental rights, and the process of petitioning for adoption from filing an adoption petition to amending the adopted child's birth certificate.
Adoption is when an adult becomes the legal parent of another person who is not his or her biological child. There are 5 types of adoption in Illinois.
A person is eligible to adopt a child in Illinois if he or she:
Typically the person adopting the child must be over the age of 18. However, courts have discretion to make exceptions to this rule for good cause.
Adopting parents can be either married or single. However, if an adopting parent is married, the spouse must meet all of the adoption requirements and be part of the process and be a party to the adoption petition unless the couple has been living separate and apart for more than 1 year.
Adopting parent petitioners in an un-related adoption must be fingerprinted and submit to a criminal background check. However, a criminal record is not an absolute bar to adoption.
Who Can Be An Adopted In Illinois?
A child is available for adoption in Illinois if:
An adult may be adopted if he or she has resided with the prospective adoptive parents for more than 2 years prior to the filing of the adoption petition.
A child that is 14 years old or older must consent to his or her own adoption.
In order for an adoption order to be entered by the court, the biological parents' parental rights must be terminated. However, there are several exceptions to this rule:
If termination of parental rights is a necessary prerequisite for adoption, this can be accomplished either voluntarily or involuntarily.
In private adoptions and related adoptions, the biological parent can execute a final and irrevocable consent to adoption. In an agency adoption, the biological parent can execute an irrevocable surrender for purposes of adoption.
A consent or surrender must be signed before a judge, a person appointed by a judge, or an agency representative. Consents and surrenders may not be executed until after 72 hours have elapsed since the birth of the child. The exception is that the biological father may execute a consent or surrender prior to the birth of the child. However, even in this case, the consent or surrender may be revoked within 72 hours of the birth of the child.
In private adoptions or related adoptions, the biological parent may execute a Final and Irrevocable Consent To Adoption by a Specified Person or Persons.
Involuntary termination of parental rights can be accomplished through a court proceeding if the court finds the biological parent to be an unfit parent by "clear and convincing evidence."
The rights of a putative father may be involuntarily terminated by serving the putative father with proper notice of a petition to this effect. The putative father will then have the opportunity to respond with either a declaration of paternity or a denial of paternity and consent to adoption. If the putative father does not respond, his parental rights will be terminated without further notice. A putative father is a potential father who was not married to the mother on or before the date of the child's birth and who has not established paternity through a court proceeding. Click here to learn more about paternity cases in Illinois.
In order to initiate an adoption proceeding, the adopting parents must file a petition for adoption along with a consent to adoption in the circuit court where the petitioners, the child, or the biological parents reside. The adoption petition must be filed within 30 days of the time that the child became available for adoption. The petition may be filed after this deadline with leave of court. The petition must be served along with a summons upon all required parties. Required parties include any biological parents who have not signed voluntary waivers of service and the child, if the child is over 14 years old.
Once all required parties have been properly served, an interim order hearing will be held to decide who will have temporary parental responsibilities for the child to be adopted. The judge will also determine whether parental responsibilities must be terminated, determine whether a guardian ad litem will be assigned to represent the child, and appoint an investigator for the case. The investigator will investigate the home of the adoptive parents and run a criminal background check. In agency adoptions, the agency will typically perform the investigation.
After 6 months have elapsed from the date of the interim order hearing, a final hearing will be conducted. After reviewing the investigator's report, the guardian ad litem's report, and affidavits submitted by the parties, the court will issue an order finalizing the adoption.
After the final adoption order has been entered by the court, the petitioners for adoption can submit a completed certificate of adoption form, which they will receive from the clerk of court, to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) in order to obtain a revised birth certificate that will show the child's new name (if applicable) and list the petitioners as the child's parents. The original birth certificate will be sealed and may only be viewed by court order.