In this article we explain the parental rights of sex offenders in Illinois and answer the question, “how do sex offenses impact child custody in Illinois?”
When determining parenting time and responsibility in Illinois, courts weigh a number of factors in order to determine the parenting plan that will be in the best interests of the child, including the wishes of the parents and the child, the child’s adjustment to school and community, and the child’s previous relationship with each parent. One of these factors that the court weighs is sexual offenses by either parent or anyone cohabiting with either parent.
For more on how courts determine parenting time and responsibility in Illinois, check out our article: Illinois Parenting Laws 2019.
If a parent’s parenting time will seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health, Illinois courts will restrict that parent’s parenting time in order to protect the child. The fact that one parent or someone living with the parent is a sex offender does not automatically trigger a restriction on parenting time. Rather courts will look into the facts of the sexual offense on a case by case basis to determine whether the particular offense demonstrates that the parent is a danger to the child. The court will hold a hearing at which both parties are entitled to present evidence. The court will base its decision on the nature of the offense as well as any treatment that the offender undertook.
Sex offense convictions against minors are treated more severely than sex offense convictions generally. If a parent has been convicted of a sex offense against an individual under 18 years of age, he or she will lose any rights to parenting time while the offender is incarcerated, on parol, probation, conditional discharge, or mandatory supervised release and until he or she complies with the terms and conditions that the court determines to be in the best interests of the child. Courts may require the parent convicted of the sexual offense to complete a treatment program before granting any parenting rights.
Prior to residing with a sex offender, a parent is required to provide reasonable notice to the other parent. The nature of the offense and the individual facts of the case will be considered, just as they would as if the parent himself or herself was a sex offender, and the same standard will be applied by the court.
Termination of parental rights is more difficult than terminating parenting time and responsibility. In order to terminate a parent’s parental rights, it must be shown that the parent is “unfit” to be a parent. One basis for demonstrating unfitness is a conviction of a sexual offense. Courts are more likely to terminate parental rights if a step-parent is willing to step into that parent’s shoes and adopt the child, because termination of parental rights terminates child support as well as parenting time.
To learn more, check out: Termination of Parental Rights in Illinois Explained.
A reader asked the following question:
I see that you answered a question of someone about if the biological father leaving and wants nothing to do with the baby and a non-biological father who accepts baby would have to go through an adoption process what is the process and does that involve the biological father? What if for safety reasons you don’t want the biological father to know about baby, would he still know about it if non biological father starts the adoption process? If biological father is listed as a sex offender who isn’t allowed near children does he have rights? What if you completely want nothing to do with biological father?
Answer: You will likely have to give notice to the biological father before terminating his parental rights, even if you do not want him to know about the child’s existence. However, you can take measures to prevent the father from learning your address. You should certainly speak with an attorney to explore your options. Protecting the child’s best interests is the court’s highest priority, weighed against the rights of the father to a hearing.