While different from the stress of the demise of a relationship, the building of a family through adoption presents a new form of stress—stress of the unknown and of an uncertain future with a loved one. Although the procedure for the adoption of a child is rather straightforward, in the legal sense, human emotion can muddy the waters, making contested adoptions one of the most harrowing of family law matters.
The process of adoption is governed by statute. In Illinois, actions for the adoption of a child or adult, whether domestic or international, proceed under the Adoption Act. At the outset, initiating an adoption proceeding may appear as a simple, clerical process. As required by the Adoption Act, individuals seeking to adopt must first file a Petition for Adoption. This Petition requires specific information depending on the factual circumstances in a given adoption action. For example, if the “adoptee” is a “related child,” meaning he or she has a familial tie to the Petitioner(s), an adult, or if the adoptee was first part of an international adoption, there are fewer statutory requirements for a Petition for Adoption than if the adoptee was unrelated. The seemingly straightforward process of adoption can quickly become complex; the Adoption Act makes each step of the adoption process clear but navigating the law while balancing the deeply emotional nature of family life can complicate what was initially a simple legal process.
The adoption process is delicate under the best circumstances and contested adoption proceedings are significantly more challenging, both in terms of the legal process and the emotional toll on those involved. Typically, an adoption is “contested” when a person who has parental rights of the “adoptee” does not give consent to the adoption of their child. In order for the adoption to occur, the contesting parent must be found to be an “unfit person” by clear and convincing evidence. A contested adoption implicates various issues that members of the legal community have grappled with for decades like the strength and sanctity of parental rights, the importance of the child’s best interest, and the rights, if any, of potential adoptive parents.
Undoubtedly, the challenges which accompany an adoption proceeding are a heavy burden to bear, only made heavier when the adoption is contested. However, adoption is an incredibly significant legal process and allows adoptive parents to add to and complete their families. For some individuals, adoption may be the only available option to build a family, making the process worth its hardships.
Kathryn H. Mickelson, Partner
For more information on Ms. Mickelson, please visit: www.beermannlaw.com/team/kathryn-homburger-mickelson.