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LGBTQ+ Second Parent Adoption in Illinois: Resources to Get Started

Updated: Apr 9

Before getting into it, let me just say you are NOT a "second" parent and I think the necessity of second parent adoption for LGBTQ+ families is bullshit. For the duration of this article, I will be calling second parent adoption "paperwork" because that is all it is. Think of it like this: it isn't about whether you should have to do it (you shouldn't), but rather what you can do for the protection of your family. I'm not a lawyer or an expert, so this is not legal advice. I'm just a doula rooting for you and your family.

two moms kiss their baby, lgbtq family, second parent adoption

In Illinois, both parents can legally go on the birth certificate so you may think that you can skip the whole nasty, costly process. However, the birth certificate is considered proof of birth, not proof of parentage. That means that you can use it for insurance, but if your parentage is challenged for any reason the document may not be enough. Also, occasionally a hospital staff member doesn't put a partner on the form. From where I sit, there are four very good reasons to do the paperwork.

Reasons to File Paperwork

  1. Your rights are presumptive, not guaranteed, which means that if you travel or move to another state your parental rights could be challenged. Most common scenario I've read about is in a healthcare decision-making situation while on vacation in a more conservative state.

  2. I've lurked on the Reddit groups long enough to see people post about how they never did the paperwork because they were in love... and now they are getting divorced. In 2018, a lesbian couple in Illinois divorced and the court upheld the non-biological mother's parental rights, but that doesn't guarantee future cases will hold.(1) One case in Michigan has gone on for years.(2) Another in PA is also messy and unresolved.(3)

  3. If something happens to your partner, their family could challenge your parental rights. Grief is a wild thing and people make unexpected, selfish choices when they are struggling.

  4. Our country is ... a dumpster fire when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights.

Bottom line: marriage rights do not equal parental rights. Adoption is legal everywhere forever. Nobody wants to plan for a worst case scenario, but I would argue that we should. If you are new to this paperwork, it allows the non-birthing parent in an LGBTQ+ couple to legally adopt their child without the birthing parent giving up their parental rights, giving you both equal parenting rights by law.

Even in cases of reciprocal IVF where the birthing parent is not supplying any genetic material they are still considered the "biological" parent.(4) The law hasn't kept up with all the beautiful ways queer people make their families.

I know this is stressful. And (again) bullshit. It is ok to be mad every step of the way. Pause here and take a nice deep breath. The good news is that Illinois is an "adoption friendly" state. The paperwork is truly just that. You are not in danger of having your co-parent adoption petition refused.

Steps for Securing Adoption Paperwork

  1. Find an Attorney: You may want to try to do this on your own, but this will likely stress you out even more. In fact, the only directions I can find online are specifically for non-LGBTQ scenarios.(5) There are family law attorneys who specialize in this paperwork and are passionate about helping LGBTQ+ people secure their families legally. Many families need to intentionally save for the cost of the legal fees. <cue rage> There is a link in the resources that breaks down likely costs so you can prepare.

    1. Most accounts I've read cite the cost at around $1200-1600. Factors like whether you are married or not, doing RIVF, or using known donor v. sperm bank will affect cost.

    2. Some agencies, like Greenlight, offer sliding scale based on income.

    3. In Illinois, you can request to have the GAL (court appointed attorney) waived in a co-parent adoption as of 2021, which should lower your fee by about $375.

  2. Petition for Adoption: The paperwork paperworks. In Illinois, both parents file a petition together for adoption with the court. This includes providing information about themselves, their relationship with the child, and their ability to provide for the child's needs. Stupid, because obviously you are providing for their needs, but I digress.

    1. You will likely be asked for documentation for proof of your income, marriage certificate (if applicable), employment and demographic information.

    2. Note: if you have never had a background check, one of the most annoying things is when they ask for everywhere you have ever lived for the past 28 years. If you don't already have that spreadsheet, you could start it now.

  3. Home Study: Required (6) even though, again, it is bullshit. Imagine if all straight couples had to submit to a home visit before being granted parental rights? Gives me the ick. The good news is, you don't need to worry about frantically cleaning your house or being asked about a minor infraction as a young adult (they are looking for red flags and inconsistencies not whether or not your laundry is put away).

  4. Legal Proceedings: Once the petition is filed, a court hearing will be scheduled. During the hearing, the judge will review the petition, any supporting documents, and may ask some questions.

    1. Usually within 30 days in Cook County; there are 4 judges in the county and they are randomly assigned.

    2. The judge has to physically see you so you will appear with your partner and child at the Daley Center (for Cook County) or on Zoom. This will last about 15-30 minutes.

  5. Finalization: Once the judge approves, a final adoption decree will be issued legally establishing your parentage. Your parental rights are now secured everywhere forever. There is a massive national and international precedent for recognizing legal adoption.

    1. If you would like the birth certificate changed for any reason you could do that here; for example if a RN refused to put a trans partner on your birth certificate you can have them added and get the document reissued.

Take another deep breath. Move the energy. Let go of the tension in your body. Queer families are too intentional and innovative for the courts to keep up. It's not their fault that they are so boring and bureaucratic while our families are technicolor magic.


The Queer Family Podcast: Your Legal Questions Answered 11/4/19

The Queer Family Podcast: Don't Be Scared of the Social Worker 10/22/18 (start at 28min)


Queer Conception by Liam L. Kali

Baby Making For Everybody by Marea Goodman and Ray Rachlin, LM, CPM

What's in a Name? Perspectives from Non-Biological and Non-Gestational Queer Mothers by Sherri Martin-Baron, Rachel Johns, Emily Regan Wills

*If you have been through the paperwork process in IL, I would love to hear from you. You are a resource.


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