Protecting The Rights Of The Affluent “Parent” In Adoption

A recent Illinois Supreme Court case illustrates the importance of legally adopting a non-biological child if one wants to protect his or her Illinois child custody and visitation rights. Establishing legal parental rights may be particularly important to wealthy Chicago parents who are likely to spend significant sums on a child that they consider their own. In a recent case, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to allow a non-biological “parent” who never legally adopted the child that he treated as his daughter to pursue a child custody and visitation claim. The case involved a man who provided the funds for his fiance, who was from Slovakia, to adopt a girl from Slovakia. Slovakian law prevented the man, who was not a Slovakian national, from adopting a Slovakian child. The man traveled to Slovakia multiple times during the year-long adoption process. In Illinois, the man established an irrevocable trust with $500,000 for the girl who he considered his daughter. The child referred to the man as “Daddy” and he was listed as her father on the child’s school records. Unfortunately, the man never sought to adopt the child under Illinois law or to domesticate the Slovakian adoption in Illinois. The Illinois Supreme Court refused to apply “equitable adoption” or “functional parent” theories and held that such theories did not apply to child custody or visitation rights. Thus, the man will not have the right to continue his relationship with the child he treated as his daughter for four years. Chicago high-net-worth individuals should protect their legal rights to non-biological children through legal adoption. Parenting duties and providing financial support do not bestow legal rights to child custody or visitation.

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