Legal Memorandum: After finding parental unfitness, when is a finding against the manifest weight of the evidence

Issue: Under Illinois law, when reviewing a finding of parental unfitness, what constitutes a finding that is "against the manifest weight of the evidence"?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: ; Parent; Unfit; Manifest Weight; Evidence; Standard of Review
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2016

On review, we determine whether a trial court’s finding of a parent’s unfitness was against the manifest weight of the evidence. In re D.F., 201 Ill.2d 476, 498 (2002). A finding is against the manifest weight of the evidence only if the opposite conclusion is clearly evident or the finding is unreasonable, arbitrary, or not based on the evidence presented. Id. Under this standard of review, we give deference to the trial court’s decision because the trial judge is in the best position to observe the conduct and demeanor of the parties and the witnesses, and has a degree of familiarity with the evidence. Id. at 498-99.

After a trial court adjudicates a parent unfit based on the allegations in a termination petition, the State must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that it is in the best interest of the child to terminate the parental rights. In re D.T., 212 Ill. 2d 347, 366 (2004). We review a trial court’s best interest determination by applying the manifest weight of the evidence standard of review. Id.; In re S.D., L.D., & E.T., 2011 IL App (3d) 110184, ¶ 33.

In re S.D., No. 3-15-0659, 2016.IL.0000282 (Ill. App. Feb. 10, 2016) (VersusLaw).

Date: March 1, 2016