In this article we will explain Illinois law regarding termination of parental rights. We answer the question, “on what grounds can parental rights be terminated in Illinois?” We explain how to involuntarily terminate parental rights in Illinois, how to prove that an Illinois parent is unfit, and what happens if an Illinois parent is deemed unfit.
Parental rights can be terminated in Illinois in various ways, including:
Parental rights can only be terminated on the basis of “unfitness” through either an adoption case or a juvenile case initiated by the state. The typical scenario in an adoption case is when one of the biological parents has remarried and the new spouse would like to adopt the child. In this case, the biological parent seeking to have his or her new spouse adopt the child must prove that the other parent is unfit to be a parent, generally based on one of the grounds discussed below.
Alternatively, if a step-parent is not willing to adopt the child, the state may initiate a juvenile case to terminate the parental rights of an abusive or neglectful parent based on “unfitness.” This type of case cannot be initiated by the other parent.
To learn more about proving that an alleged father is not the biological father of the child, check out our article: Illinois Paternity Law Explained.
Any of the following factors are grounds to establish that an Illinois parent is unfit to have parenting responsibility with respect to a child:
In a hearing to determine the fitness of a parent, the burden of proof is on the party seeking to show that that the parent is unfit. This must be done by clear and convincing evidence, a higher standard of proof than the default standard, which is a significant amount of of the evidence.
Courts are less likely to find a parent to be unfit if there is not another parent involved or another person willing to adopt the child.
The parent whom the unfitness claim is being made against may counter a claim of abandonment or lack of reasonable interest in the child by providing proof that:
Outside of the context of an adoption case, if the court finds that a parent is unfit and there is another parent involved in the child’s life, the other parent will receive a greater allocation of parenting time and responsibility. If there is not another parent in the child’s life, the child will be placed in the care of the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services.