Adopting a child is a very exciting time and a wonderful way to expand a family. However, it can also be a very stressful time for the adopting parents when new to the process. A family law attorney who is experienced in helping families with adoption can help make the process smoother and less confusing for all involved.
There are various types of adoption including: step-parent adoption, relative adoption, agency adoption, foster parent adoption, interstate adoption, and grandparent adoption to name a few. Prior to the adoption process, you want to make sure you meet the basic eligibility requirements for Illinois. In order to adopt a child in Illinois, you must be at least 18 years old, have resided in Illinois for at least six months (none for related adoptions), and you must pass a criminal background check (not required for related adoptions).
One’s marital status is irrelevant; however, if you are married, then both you and your spouse must jointly petition to adopt the child. Once the petition is completed and filed with the clerk’s office, the legal adoption process begins. The court will then appoint a lawyer to be a guardian ad litem, which is a litigation guardian who seeks the best interests for the minor sought to be adopted.
Prospective adoptive parents working with a private adoption agency, or the Department of Children and Family Services normally require completion of a home study and a criminal background as well. During the home study, an investigative social worker appointed by the court will come out to the adoptive parent’s home and verify that the house meets safety requirements and is adequate for the child. The social worker will also speak with the family to get to know them better and there can be more than one home visit before the study is completed. Once completed there will be a finalized report with his or her recommendations. These home studies are not required for related adoptions.
The biological parents and the child are entitled to notice of the proceeding and should be personally served to them if possible. The court may enter an order that gives the adoptive parents temporary custody of the child until the final hearing/ruling is completed, called interim custody. Notice must be provided for this as well.
The court will then hold a hearing to determine the best placement for the child and may determine several related issues. Six months after the interim order is issued, the adopting parents can request that the court finalize the adoption by issuing a judgment (in unrelated adoptions). The court would first terminate the parental rights of the biological parents and decide whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child. If so, the court will enter a judgment granting the adoption.
For questions/advice on adoptions, please contact our office to set up a consultation.