Taking on the responsibility for a child through Adoption or Guardianship is one of the most honorable endeavors a person can pursue. At the family law firm Crosby & Crosby, it is our pleasure to assist clients who wish to give a child a better home or assist a minor or adult in need, and we will do all within our power to assist you in accomplishing that.

Grounds for Adoption

To begin our examination of this legal issue, it is essential to remember that adoption requires two basic proofs. First, that the biological parents of the child are unfit as a parent, and second, that you are fit as a parent. Fitness can be proven and disproven in several ways.

In determining whether a parent is fit or unfit, Illinois Courts look to the Illinois Adoption Act for guidelines. This Illinois law lays out several possible ways an experienced Child Custody or Adoption Lawyer can prove a party to be an unfit parent. These include:

  • Physical and/or emotional abuse of a child
  • Child abandonment
  • Legitimate neglect of a child
  • Disinterest in a child’s wellbeing
  • Legitimate lack of responsibility for a child
  • Placing the child in a dangerous or unsafe living environment
  • Significant substance abuse that results in any of the above
  • Significant mental Illnesses that result in any of the above
  • Imprisonment

Proving that a parent is fit, is much more subjective. Typically, a fit parent can demonstrate that they do not have any of the above elements. A fit parent is also able to prove to the Courts that they can provide a comfortable living space for the child, as well as food and clothing for the child and that they can take or have taken significant care and responsibility for the child in question or other children in their care. It is usually a good idea to take a few minutes to explain the depth and loving nature of the adoptive parent’s relationship as well. It never hurts to tell a few heartwarming stories.

Types of Adoption

Adoption is an enormous responsibility that should never be taken lightly. Adopting a child means that you, the parent, will bring a child into your family and treat them as though they are your flesh and blood. You will be asked by the Court to prove that you have the ability, financially and personally, to take on the responsibility of a new child and provide them a loving home where they will be nurtured and supported as they grow into adulthood.

Several categories of Adoption can be pursued, and the most common are the following.

Contested Adoption of a Family Member

First, we need to explain what is meant by the term Contested Adoption of a Family Member. Imagine, for example, you’re in a situation where you believe the child of a family member would be better off with you. Perhaps you’re worried the child’s parents aren’t able to take good care of them, and you want a judge to issue a ruling saying the child’s parents can no longer be their legal parents.

Of course, just because you think the child’s parents aren’t fit, doesn’t mean the parents will agree with that view. It’s very possible they will not see things the same way you do, and this disagreement leads to a “contested adoption.”

You’re essentially going to court to argue that the child’s parents should not have parental rights, and naturally, they’ll want to fight back.

In court, both you and the child’s parents will have the chance to make your case. They’ll try to prove they’re capable parents, while your lawyer will argue they’re not. It’s a real-life courtroom drama where a child’s future is at stake.

To make sure the child’s best interests are at the heart of the final decision, the court might assign a special lawyer called a Guardian Ad Litem. This person’s job is to examine the family situation thoroughly, looking at everything to decide what’s truly best for the child. Once they have completed their case examination, they will report their findings to the judge.

After a hearing on the parents’ fitness, your attorney will then be required to prove that you are a fit parent. This means that you will essentially have two cases to prove. If successful in proving both of these cases – the biological parents are unfit and you are fit to be the parent – you will succeed in the adoption. A Court Order will be issued stating that the parents are not fit to be parents and that you are now the Adoptive Parent.

We know all this information is a lot to take in, but don’t worry. Crosby & Crosby Law is here to walk you through every step of this journey. If you’re ready to learn more, especially about how a Guardian Ad Litem fits into all this, please contact our law firm.

Uncontested Adoption of a Family Member

This process is likely to be the easiest route to adoption available to you. To proceed with an Uncontested Adoption of a Family Member, your attorney will need to obtain a form called a “Waiver and Consent” that the biological parents have willingly signed.

By signing this form, the child’s parents are consenting to the adoption and waiving their right to contest it. If this is done, a Guardian Ad Litem will still likely be appointed to evaluate whether it is in the child’s best interest that you become the Adoptive Parent, but will not evaluate the fitness of the biological parents.

Once you have the Waiver and Consent signed and filed with the Court, your attorney will only need to prove that you are a fit parent to adopt. Typically, when a biological parent willingly signs a Waiver and Consent form, it becomes much easier to prove that you are a parent fit to care for the child. You will still need to participate in a hearing, but that hearing will likely be concluded quickly. If successful at such a hearing, the Court will order the adoption.

Contested Adoption of a Non-Family Member

A Contested Adoption of a Non-Family Member adds a step to those discussed above. Not only will your attorney have to prove that you are a fit parent and the biological parents are unfit, but you will also have to agree to what the Courts call a “Home Study” to evaluate whether your home is sufficient to house a child or another child if you already have children.

This Home Study will be conducted by a licensed Child Welfare Agency that will send an inspector to your home to conduct their research. If that Home Study is reported back to the Court in your favor, you and your attorney will then need to prove that you are a fit parent and that the biological parents are not. If you can do this, the Adoption will be Ordered by the Court.

Uncontested Adoption of a Non-Family Member

An Uncontested Adoption of a Non-Family Member is similar to an Uncontested Adoption of a Family Member. Your attorney will be required to provide a Waiver and Contest of Adoption to the Court.

The only real difference between an Uncontested Adoption of a Family Member and a Non-Family Member is that when you are not related to the child, you will have to agree to a Home Study, as we mentioned above.

If that Home Study is favorable to you, your attorney has filed a Waiver and Consent form, and your attorney can prove that you are a fit parent, your Adoption will be Ordered by the Court.

Guardianship and Advocacy in Rockford, IL

In contrast to adoption, when seeking guardianship, you are generally taking a more temporary form of responsibility. A guardianship is an action taken in Probate Court as opposed to Family Law Court and is done in a circumstance where a child or children require a temporary support system and family.

While guardianships are temporary, they can often last for an extended period, so we advise our clients to go into a guardianship proceeding with a mindset similar to an adoption. While guardianships often involve a minor, it is important to note that it is possible to seek the guardianship of an adult as well.

Types of Guardianships

The keys to a guardianship case are determining, first, whether the person in question should be declared a Ward in need of a Guardian, and second, whether the person seeking to become a Guardian is capable of performing the duties set out for a Guardian by the Court.

Some of the most common forms of guardianship include the following.

Guardianship of a Minor

Generally, a Guardian of a Minor is appointed when the parents of the minor have been proven to be unfit, either permanently or temporarily, and the Court requires a competent adult to care for the minor when there is no adult able to adopt the minor.

This kind of guardianship is most common in families where grandparents wish to take responsibility for their grandchildren while the parents are recovering from issues in their lives that make them unfit. For example, we frequently see this situation when a parent is recovering from addiction or is in some form of criminal trouble.

The Guardian of a Minor does not have to be a relative, but most commonly they are. In this action, the person seeking to be the child’s Guardian must seek a Court Order in Probate Court. The potential Guardian’s attorney – their advocate – will need to prove to the Court that the Guardian can provide a comfortable living environment and be able to provide for the child’s needs.

If these requirements are proven, the Court will appoint the Guardian through a document called “Letters of Office.” This is essentially a Court Order granting the Guardian the authority to act on behalf of the minor and care for the minor’s needs. Being granted Letters of Office for a minor will also allow the Guardian access to state aid for the minor child.

Guardianship of a Disabled Adult

Guardianships for a Disabled Adult are similar to those involving children, but in these cases, the Ward is a Disabled Adult who cannot care for or act for themselves. Again, the Guardian is typically a family member, but they do not have to be. In this type of case, the potential Guardian’s attorney must prove that they are capable of caring for the Disabled Adult and that they will responsibly manage the affairs of the Disabled Adult.

Also in these cases, the potential Guardian will need to show that the adult is disabled, either physically or mentally. This is typically done through medical records provided to the Court in a hearing.

If the testimony and evidence are compelling, the Probate Court will issue Letters of Office granting the Guardian the authority to act on behalf of the Disabled Adult.

Guardianship of an Estate

A Guardian of an Estate is a Guardian who is to be responsible for the Estate of a Disabled Adult, or simply put, is a person in charge of that Disabled Adult’s finances. This is a more limited form of Guardianship that allows a Disabled Adult some freedom to manage their day-to-day lives but requires a Guardian to manage their finances.

A potential Guardian must show that the Disabled Adult is not capable of responsibly managing their finances alone and requires another adult to manage their financial affairs for them. A potential Guardian must also prove that they are responsible and can manage the Ward’s financial affairs responsibly.

Again, in these cases, the Court will issue Letters of Office to the Guardian, granting that person the authority to act in this limited manner.

Limited Guardianships

A Limited Guardian is essentially a Guardian with limited authority, as directed by the Court’s Order. In cases of Limited Guardianship, the Ward is typically able to care for themselves to a degree but may require some assistance. Again, the potential Guardian must prove to the Court that they can act in this limited fashion and that the potential Ward needs assistance.

If these things are proven in Court, Letters of Office will be issued stating the limited nature of the Guardian’s authority to act on behalf of the Ward.

Temporary Guardianships

While any of these guardianship cases are being adjudicated, the Court also has the authority to appoint a Temporary Guardian. In these circumstances, it will be clear to the Court that the potential Ward needs assistance. However, the Court has not yet determined whether this Guardianship will be limited in some way, or who the permanent Guardian will be.

Most often, the Temporary Guardian will become the permanent Guardian (also known as the Plenary Guardian), but the final Order has not yet been entered.

Requirements for a Guardian

Finally, it needs to be noted that the requirements for a Guardian to be appointed are similar to the requirements of Adoptive parents. The Guardian must show they are fit to house the Ward, that they can provide for the Ward, and that they are capable of carrying out the responsibilities of a Guardian.

In a Guardianship case, the requirements for the care of the Ward may vary and therefore the requirements for the Guardian may vary. In a Guardianship of a Minor case, the Guardian must show that the Ward will be comfortable living with the Guardian, while in a Limited Guardianship of a Disabled Adult, the Guardian must show that they are capable of serving the Ward in the fashion determined by the Court.

Finally, in all Guardianship cases, the Guardian will be required to file an annual report with the Court, proving that the Guardian is satisfactorily carrying their responsibilities to the Ward. Typically, this process can be completed with just paperwork, but it can also be conducted in person within a courtroom.

Adoption, Guardianship, and Advocacy in Rockford, IL

If you’re seeking legal advocacy for adoption, it’s crucial to have experienced and trusted attorneys by your side. As adoption lawyers in Rockford, IL, we are committed to supporting those who wish to provide a child with a loving and stable home. Whether you’re considering adoption or guardianship, our team is dedicated to guiding you through each step, ensuring the process is as smooth and straightforward as possible.

Adoption and guardianship are significant decisions that can profoundly impact a child’s life. We understand the complexities involved, including proving the unfitness of a biological parent and establishing your capability as a prospective parent. Our expertise extends across various adoption scenarios, from contested and uncontested adoptions to adopting a non-family member. We’re well-versed in navigating the Illinois Adoption Act and utilizing our knowledge to advocate for your case effectively.

For those considering guardianship, we offer comprehensive services to assist in securing a temporary or permanent guardianship arrangement, catering to minors and disabled adults alike. Understanding that each case is unique, we tailor our approach to meet the specific needs and circumstances of your situation.

Don’t navigate the complex legal landscape of adoption and guardianship alone. Contact Crosby & Crosby Law today to learn how our experienced, trusted guardianship and adoption attorneys in Rockford, IL, can assist you in your legal journey.

We’re here to provide the legal advice, support, and advocacy you need every step of the way, and we urge you to contact us today to schedule your initial free consultation.

At Crosby & Crosby, You’re Never Alone

We want you to know that first and foremost, we’re here to help you succeed and protect what you value most.

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Helpful questions about family law

How to choose the right divorce lawyer?

Choosing the right divorce lawyer, in our mind, comes down to three factors. First, is this lawyer going to be an aggressive advocate for me? Second, is this lawyer a person I can get along with personally? Third, do I trust this lawyer to communicate with me effectively? If you walk away from an initial consultation with a lawyer answering yes to those three questions, you have likely found the lawyer who is right for you.

Legal work can be extremely time consuming. Your expectations should not necessarily be that your lawyer is someone you can vent to about your personal life, as that would likely result in an unreasonably high bill. But you should expect your lawyer to keep you informed as to the status of your case. You should also expect your lawyer to listen to your wishes and concerns and use those thoughts as a basis for your case. You don’t need to talk to your lawyer everyday, but you should hear from them every other week or so.

Expect the unexpected when it comes to the Court dates. The Court system is based on a first-come-first-serve calendar, when the case is not filed as an emergency. All initial Court dates are determined by the Clerk of the Court, not of the lawyer or client. If you have a lawyer, expect the Judges to want your lawyer to do the talking, unless the Judge asks the client a question directly. You should also expect the Judge to keep the Courtroom as orderly as possible. Judges very much look down on people who speak out of turn. As for dress, the Court does not require a strict dress code, but it is always a good idea to dress professionally to show the Judge that you take the system and their Courtroom seriously.

There is a process in the law referred to as “discovery” that allows a party to a legal proceeding to discover information about the opposing party. In the context of a divorce, “discovery” is primarily used in the form of written questions and written requests for the opposing party to provide documents to the party that is doing the requesting. These are called “interrogatories” and “requests to produce.” During the process, the party answering the questions or requests must provide a written testimony, under oath, that the documents and answers are true and accurate. It is through this process of “discovery” that we are able to learn what assets a party possesses.

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