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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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Wheaton adoption lawyerAdoption is a beautiful gift that allows a child to have the safe, loving family he or she deserves. If you and your family are considering adopting a child, you likely have a myriad of questions about the process. One issue you may be thinking about is whether or not to have an open adoption. In an open adoption, the adopted child’s biological parent(s) continue to have contact with the child. The communication between the biological parents and the child may involve anything from a few letters or emails a year to frequent in-person contact.

Advantages and Disadvantages of an Open Adoption

In a closed adoption, the biological parents do not communicate with their child or the adoptive parents once the adoption is finalized. In an open adoption, the biological parents continue to have some degree of contact with the child. There are certainly benefits to open adoption. The child may feel more secure and have a better sense of identity. The adoptive parents can benefit from the biological parents’ support and friendship as well as the ability to ask the biological parents questions about their family medical history. However, having an open adoption can also be tricky to navigate. The biological parents and adoptive parents may not see eye to eye about the child’s education, extracurricular activities, religion, or overall upbringing. Honest communication and firm boundaries are the keys to successful open adoption.

The Child’s Best Interests Must Come First

There are many different reasons why a child may be placed for adoption. In some cases, the child’s biological parents realize that they are incapable of adequately caring for the child. Other times, the child is removed from the home because the parents were abusive, neglectful, suffered from substance abuse addiction, or were otherwise a risk of harm to the child. The most important factor to consider when deciding the level of involvement the biological parents should have in the child’s life is the child’s best interests. If the child’s mental or physical well-being could be harmed by spending time with his or her biological parents, it may be best to limit the biological parents’ degree of participation in his or her life.

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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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DuPage County adoption lawyer termination of parental rightsDeciding to adopt a child can be one of the most rewarding decisions a person ever makes. Unfortunately, the legal process of adopting a child can often be very complicated. Even if the adoptive parents take every step possible to help the adoption proceed smoothly, it is possible that the adoption may be contested or disputed by another party. If you are planning to adopt a child, and you are concerned that the child’s biological parent or another party may contest the adoption, contact a lawyer experienced in adoption issues as soon as possible.

Common Issues That Lead to Contested Adoptions

There are several reasons that an adoption may be contested. In some cases, a biological parent may contest an adoption because they do not want to give up their parental rights. For example, if the child’s biological mother never told the father that she had a child, it is possible that the father may not have even known about the child’s existence. If a biological father can show that he is willing and able to assume parental responsibilities, it is possible that the adoption process will be terminated. However, if a father knew that he had a child but chose to remain completely uninvolved in the child’s life, he may not be granted any parental rights, and the adoption may continue. A father may also lose the right to contest an adoption if he does not contact the child for more than one year or provide child support to address the child’s needs. An adoption may also be contested if a biological parent disagrees with a stepparent adoption or if a birth father disagrees with a mother’s decision to place an infant up for adoption.

Contested Adoption Hearings

If an adoption is contested, the parties seeking the adoption and the party contesting the adoption must attend a consent hearing. During the hearing, a judge will evaluate evidence and hear arguments from both sides. A parent who is contesting an adoption may use receipts, documents, emails, text messages, or other evidence to argue that he or she was in fact involved in the child’s upbringing and should be granted parental rights. The outcome of the hearing may result in the contesting party gaining parental rights and halting the adoption, or the contesting party may be denied parental rights, and the adoption process may be permitted to continue. In other cases, the judge may order a “best interests” hearing to determine what parenting arrangement is in the child’s best interests.

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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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