Contested Adoptions: How Parental Disputes Can Impede the Adoption Process
While adoption is beneficial for biological and adoptive parents alike, the complex decisions involved can lead to disputes concerning parents’ rights and the viability of adoption.
In some cases, legal parents dispute adoptions leaving the process at a standstill and the other involved parties unsure of the outcome.
Kogut & Wilson elaborates on contested adoptions and why they occur to keep prospective adopters informed of potential setbacks.
What Are Contested Adoptions?
Contested adoptions occur when a legal parent does not consent to the adoption, typically in private adoption cases. If the adopting parents still want to pursue finalization, a trial must be conducted to determine whether the legal parent or parents are unfit. The court must then determine if termination of the legal parents’ rights would be in the best interest of the child.
Common situations that result in an adoption dispute include:
- One or both legal parents failing to consent to, waive or surrender to the termination of their parental rights
- A legal parent challenging the prior termination of their parental rights
In any case, an adoption dispute necessitates court involvement and an attorney’s guidance to navigate both the adoptive and legal parents’ rights.
Reasons for Contested Adoptions
Adoptions can become contested for many reasons, including:
- A legal parent wishing to exercise his or her parental rights
- A legal parent contesting a previously executed consent, waiver or surrender
- A birth parent contesting a prior termination of their parental rights
- A putative father contesting his standing or ability to become involved in an adoption
These disputes can arise in agency assisted, private or DCFS adoptions.
The Contested Adoption Process
Families rarely resolve contested adoptions outside of the legal processes. If an adoption is contested by either of the legal parents, a judge will hear the case.
Adoption hearings are bifurcated, meaning the court will hear testimony and review evidence in two separate proceedings. The first proceeding involves determining whether the legal parent or parents are unfit to parent. Some of the most common grounds for a finding of unfitness include abandonment, desertion and failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility as to the child’s welfare.
If the court determines the legal parent or parents are unfit, then it will advance to the second proceeding. In the second proceeding, the court must decide whether termination of the legal parent or parents’ parental rights would be in the best interest of the child.
Individuals involved in a contested adoption should speak with an experienced adoption attorney to learn more about Illinois specific adoption requirements.
Avoiding a Contested Adoption
Although contested adoptions may be unavoidable at times, actions exist to mitigate the probability of a dispute.
Legal parents making an adoption plan should:
- Participate in sufficient fact finding to determine paternity
- Discuss their adoption plan with the other legal parent
Families looking to adopt a child should:
- Discuss the possibility of consent with all legal parents before filing
- Seek out the help of an experienced professional to determine their options if a legal parent no longer agrees with the process
Because contested adoptions are complex, having an adoption attorney by your side ensures both the child and your interests remain front and center. Kogut & Wilson stands prepared to assist biological parents and adoptive families navigate adoption disputes.