Adoption creates a parent/child relationship with all the rights and responsibilities associated with that type of relationship. Adoption also severs any previously existing parent/child relationship. The new parent/child relationship can only be formed by the court. You will need to appear before the court to sign a written statement saying that you will act in all regards as the parent of the child and that you will also take on all of the responsibilities of parenthood.
In order to adopt, you must be an adult who is married with permission from your spouse, or single and not cohabitation with another person. In addition, the person/child that you plan to adopt must be at least 10 years younger than you. The court will look at the best interests of the child in making their determination as to whether they will allow you to adopt. The court may also order the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) to investigate and make a report to the court.
Consent must be obtained. Any person or institution whose consent is required (see below) must be given at least thirty (30) days notice. Although not complete, some examples of people who might need to be notified are:
- anyone who has filed a paternity action for the child and filed a notice of that action with the Department of Vital Statistics;
- any legally appointed guardian or custodian;
- your spouse, if applicable;
- a parent listed on the birth certificate; and
- a person who lives with the child and acts like the child’s parent.
Except as noted below, you will generally have to get written consent from at least one person. Although a person may not give consent until the child is at least 24 hours old. Consent may be given in front of a judge or given to an adoption agency. Once signed, consent cannot be revoked. As you might expect, the list of who may have to consent is very similar to the list of those you must notify and include the following:
- the person being adopted if he or she is over 12 years of age and mentally competent;
- both parents of a minor child if born within a marriage;
- the mother of a minor child if born outside of a marriage, and the father if:
- a court has ruled that he is the father,
- he has filed a voluntary declaration of paternity prior to the mother signing the consent of adoption,
- he has developed a strong relationship with the child and has taken some responsibility and/or shown some commitment for the child, or
- he has lived with the child for 6 months within the child’s first year and acted as though the child was his own.
- the adoption agency.
If someone does not agree with the adoption, they have a right to fight it. In order to do so, they must inform the court either by appearing at the hearing or by filing a written statement of their concerns within 30 days of being served notice of the adoption.