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DuPage County private adoption attorneyChoosing to adopt a child can be a wonderful, life-changing decision. However, the adoption process can be full of legal complications and potential pitfalls. If you are considering adoption, it is important to educate yourself about the obstacles that you may encounter. It is also important to work with an adoption attorney who has experience successfully addressing these issues.

Relative Adoptions

One of the most common types of adoption in Illinois is relative adoption. Adopting a stepchild or other relative is often more straightforward than other types of adoption, but it can also involve many legal challenges. A child can only have two parents, so in some cases, the child’s biological parent or parents may need to relinquish their parental rights before the adoption can occur. However, many parents are unwilling to do so, or they may choose to contest the adoption in court. If parents do not voluntarily relinquish their parental rights, they may lose their parental rights after being deemed “unfit” by the court. Neglect, abuse, abandonment, severe drug addiction, and other issues that may lead a court to terminate a parent’s parental rights.

Private Adoptions

In a private adoption, the adoptive parents adopt a child directly from the biological parents. In most cases, no adoption agencies or outside organizations are involved. Unfortunately, private adoption scams and fraud are not uncommon. Birth mothers may misrepresent themselves, take money from adoptive parents with no intention of ever following through with the adoption, or even pretend to be pregnant for financial gain. Birth mothers may also change their minds about the adoption after giving birth. It is absolutely essential to work with an adoption attorney if you plan to pursue a private adoption.

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Wheaton step-parent adoption lawyerDeciding to adopt a child is undoubtedly one of the most consequential decisions you will ever make. Whether you are thinking about adoption because of fertility issues, a desire to formally adopt your stepchild, or any other reason, you probably have many questions. The adoption process varies significantly depending on the type of adoption and the circumstances of the case, but there are a few basic steps that are almost always involved in an Illinois adoption.

Avenues for Adopting a Child

One of the most common types of adoption is a relative adoption, such as a stepparent adoption or grandparent adoption. A child can only have two legal parents. If you wish to adopt a child related to you, you may need to first get consent from the child’s biological parent(s). One or both parents may need to voluntarily terminate their parental rights before you can adopt the child. A biological parent's rights may be involuntarily terminated by the court if the parent has abandoned, neglected, abused, or consistently failed to show any interest in the child. 

An agency adoption involves adopting a child from a private or public adoption agency after the birth parents gave the child up for adoption or had their parental rights terminated. A private adoption involves adopting a child directly from the birth mother. Legal guidance from an adoption attorney is recommended for any type of adoption. However, it is especially crucial to get reliable legal support when pursuing a private adoption.

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DuPage County family law attorney parental rights

When a mother gives birth to a child, she automatically receives legal privileges and responsibilities referred to as “parental rights.” If the mother is married, her husband is presumed to be the baby’s father and therefore he gains parental rights as well. Unmarried fathers can establish paternity and obtain parental rights by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP). However, there are some circumstances in which a parent may wish to give up his or her parental rights. Often, a parent seeks to terminate his or her parental rights so the child can be adopted.  

Voluntarily Giving Up Your Parenting Rights

Parental rights include the right to parenting time, the right to object to the child being placed for adoption, and much more. However, being a child’s legal parent may also incur certain responsibilities such as a child support obligation. Children can only have two legal parents. If a stepparent wishes to adopt his or her stepchild, the other parent may need to terminate his or her parental rights. The court also has the authority to terminate a parent’s rights against his or her will in situations involving abandonment, abuse, or other issues that endanger the child. 

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Wheaton family law attorney for termination of parental rightsIllinois courts presume that it is in a child’s best interests to have both parents involved in their life. However, it takes a great deal of responsibility and attention to adequately care for a child. If a parent cannot satisfactorily provide for a child’s needs, or if spending time with the parent may put the child in danger, the parent may be considered “unfit.” When a parent is declared unfit, the courts no longer presume that it is in the child’s best interests to spend time with that parent. When addressing family law issues, the parties involved will want to understand how parental fitness laws may affect the outcome of their case.

Illinois Law Regarding Parental Fitness

The issue of parental fitness is often explored during adoption. Typically, consent from both biological parents is required for an adoption to occur. However, if a parent is found to be unfit by “clear and convincing evidence,” the parent’s parental rights may be terminated. The adoption may then be permitted even without that parent’s consent. An unfit parent is typically defined as a parent who does not have the child’s best interests at heart. In Illinois, parental rights can only be terminated through a juvenile case initiated by the state or in conjunction with the Adoption Act. During a parental fitness hearing, the burden of proof is on the party claiming that the parent is unfit.

The following issues are often used as grounds to establish that a parent is unfit in Illinois:

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DuPage County family law adoption attorney

Deciding to adopt a child can be one of the most rewarding choices of your life. Adoption can change the future of the adopted child as well as yours. According to recent statistics, there are over 100,000 kids waiting to be adopted in the United States, and more than 400,000 children are in foster care. However, it is important to note that adoption requires more than just welcoming a child into your home and lots of paperwork. Below are some practical tips to help you prepare mentally for expanding your family through adoption. 

Consider the Responsibility

Make sure you are on the same page as your partner. Adopting a child can be a long and taxing process that will require much work from both of you. If one of you is having doubts, or if your heart is not in the process, then things between the two of you may become difficult and lead to arguments. Make sure adoption is something you both want before taking this monumental step.

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