Adoption can be a wonderful, happy event for everyone involved. However, there are times when the process becomes quite complex, especially when an adoption involves a parent who still ostensibly can assert parental rights, yet is nowhere to be found. There is a very specific process to go through before a child with an absentee parent—or both absentee parent—may be adopted into a family where he or she will receive the kind of attention he or she deserves.
Abandonment and Desertion
In most situations, a child is presumed to have two parents, but this is not necessarily true in every case. Illinois provides four ways for paternity be legally established following the birth of a child, including:
- The mother and father are married either at a child’s conception, birth, or both;
- Both parents complete and sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form;
- An Administrative Paternity Order is entered by Child Support Services; or
- A family court judge enters an order on his or her own authority.
If none of these are done around the time of the child’s birth, the father may not legally be listed on the birth certificate. Some fathers are omitted through honest mistakes and may take steps to remedy the situation. However, others willfully refuse to take responsibility for a child.
Mere refusal to acknowledge paternity does not constitute abandonment, but it can be one brick in the proverbial wall. Illinois law describes child abandonment or desertion as any conduct that demonstrates an uncompromising willingness to surrender all parental rights. In an adoption proceeding, it is the responsibility of the potential adoptive parent to prove the birth parent or parents’ abandonment of the child.
In order to adopt a child from absentee parents, the potential parent must file a petition for adoption that alleges the birth parent or parents are unfit—not necessarily due to abandonment, but it is one of the most common reasons for such a petition. The birth parents, regardless of any evidence of unfit parenting, must be served a copy of the adoption petition and be given a chance to refute the allegations. If the parents cannot be physically located, service may be attempted via publication, which entails placing the announcement in a newspaper or newspapers near the birth parents’ last known address. The objective is to give the birth parents the best possible chance of seeing the petition announcement. Illinois, along with most other states, afford quite a bit of protection to parental rights, as a matter of public policy. Most of the time, the prevailing mindset is that a child belongs with his or her parents, and it takes considerable evidence to change that view.
For the adoption to proceed, the court must find clear and convincing evidence of the birth parent or parents’ unfitness. The adoptive parent must be able to show that remaining with the birth parents would not be in the child’s best interest. The grounds to establish unfitness are laid out in Illinois statutory law, and if one or more grounds may be proved, the chance that the adoption will succeed is high.
Contact an Adoption Attorney
If you are interested in adopting a child whose parents have abandoned or deserted him or her, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney for help. Our knowledgeable team will work hard on your behalf and help you take the steps necessary to protect the child’s well-being. Call 630-377-7770 for a free consultation today.