Chicago Parental Rights and Adoption

Chicago Parental Rights and Adoption

By: M. Scott Gordon

What kinds of parental rights does a biological parent maintain in the event of adoption? And do adoptive parents acquire the same rights and responsibilities as biological parents once an adoption is finalized?

In order to understand how parental rights work in our state with regard to adoption, it’s important to understand the parameters of Illinois adoption law.

Adoption Law and Procedure in Illinois

In the Chicago area, adoptions are governed by the Illinois Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/). The statute defines adoption as a situation in which an adult becomes the legal parent of a person who isn’t their biological child. Adoptions happen in two different kinds of situations: where the biological parents consent to the adoption, and where an Illinois court terminates the parental rights of the biological parents. Once an adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents have the same parental rights initially afforded to the biological parents. In other words, under the law the adoptive parents don’t look any different than natural parents.

But what kinds of adoptions exist? Do they always involve strangers, or do family members acquire parental rights through adoption? Under Illinois law, there are essentially two different kinds of adoption, including:

  • Related adoption: where the person who wants to adopt the child is related to the child. This type of adoption includes stepparents seeking to adopt a stepchild.
  • Unrelated adoption: where the person who wants to adopt the child isn’t related to the child.

Adoption can happen through a couple of different paths, including:

  • Agency placement: where an adoption agency places the child with a person who wants to adopt.
  • Private placement: where the biological parents of the child agree to allow another party to adopt the child.

In some situations, adults are adopted too, just like children. Adult adoption takes place for many different reasons, and an experienced Chicago family lawyer can discuss options with you if this is a path in which you’re interested.

Parental Rights of Stepparents Who Adopt

One of the most commonly asked questions surrounding adoption in Illinois concerns stepparents and parental rights. In many cases, when a spouse with sole custody of a child remarries, the stepparent seeks to adopt the child.

In terms of the type of adoption, this is considered a related adoption. In Illinois, it’s usually easier to adopt a child that’s related to you, particularly when the biological parent (whose role you would be filling) agrees to the adoption. Even in cases where one of the biological parents doesn’t agree to the adoption of a child, however, a court can determine the biological parent “unfit.”

In both related and unrelated adoption, Illinois residents are eligible to adopt a child if they meet the following stipulations:

  • The adoptive parent is an adult.
  • The adoptive parent doesn’t have a legal disability.
  • The adoptive parent has lived in Illinois for at least 6 months (or at least 90 days for members of the military).
  • The adoptive parent is a “reputable person.”

In the stepparent situation we described above, let’s say the biological father has sole custody and remarries the child’s stepmother. As long as the stepmother meets these conditions—and as long as the biological mother agrees to the adoption or has been ruled “unfit”—then the stepmother will have the same parental rights as the child’s biological father.

Do you have questions about parental rights and adoption? Contact a Chicago family attorney at the law offices of Gordon & Perlut, LLC today.