Adoption and Paternity
Sometimes, birth fathers are ignored when it comes to adoption proceedings. However, in Illinois, they have important rights with legal protections. Depending on the father’s legal status, a father may be required to give consent to an adoption for the adoption to proceed.
There are several ways to become a legal father in Illinois. If a child’s father was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth or conception, then he will automatically become the child’s legal father. He may also establish paternity by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) form, through a Department of Public Aid administrative order if the mother is receiving public assistance, or through filing a petition with the Court.
Legal fathers have the same rights to their children as mothers do. Therefore, a father has the same right as the mother to be notified of and participate in any adoption proceedings. In order for an adoption to be finalized, the father’s parental rights must be terminated. This can be done voluntarily, by signing a Surrender or Consent to Adoption. If the father refuses to permit the adoption, but the Court deems him unfit to care for the child, then the Court may terminate the father’s parental rights.
A putative father is a man who may be the father of a child, yet he does not have the same status as a legal father through marriage, signing a VAP, or a Court or administrative order. If a putative father wants to assert his parental rights and have any say in adoption proceedings, certain steps must be taken. The first step is to register with the Illinois Putative Father Registry. If a putative father registers, and if the child becomes the subject of an adoption, then the putative father will be notified and can appear in Court to give testimony about the child’s best interests.
To have rights in an adoption proceeding, the putative father must register no later than 30 days after the child’s birth. Further, he must begin proceedings to legally establish paternity within 30 days of registering. If he does not do so, the Court can rule that he has waived his parental rights. The Court may then terminate the putative father’s parental rights and allow an adoption to go forward without his consent.
In Illinois, a birth mother has the right to decline to disclose the identity of the birth father. For an adoption to go forward, if no birth father is named, the birth mother must submit a signed, sworn affidavit in which she either states that she does not know the birth father’s identity and explains why, or states that she knows the father’s identity but refuses to disclose that information and explains why.
If adoption proceedings are started for a child with an unknown father, reasonable efforts must be made to locate the father and inform him of the adoption proceedings. There is an exception, however, if the father fails to either sign a VAP or register with the Putative Father Registry.
If you have questions or concerns about your paternity and adoption case, please contact skilled Palatine family law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson for a free initial consultation.