This is Dial-Law with information about adoption as it applies to Illinois law only. If you are not a resident of Illinois, we suggest that you contact your local county bar association.

Adoption can take place only if the birth parent or parents consent to it or if a judge rules that the birth parent or parents are unfit to rear the child. This applies even to the unmarried father of a child. There are 18 grounds for a finding of unfitness against a parent. The most commonly used grounds are:

1. Abandonment of the child.
2. Desertion of the child.
3. Failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility as to the child's welfare.

If you wish to adopt a child, you must file a Petition with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. If you state that the birth parent is unfit, you must notify the birth parent by summons served by the sheriff if the parent's address is known, and by publication in the newspaper if the address is unknown. The parent will have an opportunity to answer your charges in court.

Adoption often occurs when a parent with custody of a child marries and the parent's spouse wants to adopt the child. In this case, both the birth parent with custody and the new spouse must join in filing the petition and the non-custodial parent must either consent or be found unfit. Sometimes other relatives such as grandparents adopt a child.

Sometimes a child is placed in an adoptive home by an agency to which the birth parent or parents surrendered it. Sometimes a child is placed in an adoptive home directly by birth parents with the assistance of an intermediary such as a doctor or lawyer. In both cases, the judge will order an investigation of the adoptive home. In independent adoptions, the adoptive family may only pay for the living expenses of birth parents if the court gives prior approval. It is possible in Illinois for a single person to adopt.

It is also possible to adopt an adult in Illinois. The consent of the adult's birth parents is not required and they do not even have to be notified of the proceeding. Only the consent of the adult who is being adopted is needed. If the adult is not related to the persons seeking to adopt him, he must have lived with them for more than two years before the adoption petition is filed.

Any person 14 years of age or older being adopted must agree in writing to the adoption and to the change of name. The judge's order for adoption will usually provide for the change of the adoptee's name to that of the adoptive family, but the adoptee may retain his original surname. A new birth certificate will be issued showing the adoptive parents as the parents of the child.

All adoption records, including court records and the original birth certificate, are sealed and can only be opened by order of court. However, Illinois has established a Registry to provide identifying information to mutually consenting adult adoptees and birth parents. If you wish more information on this Registry, contact the Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Statistics, Springfield, Illinois.