Legal Memorandum: Appellate court’s standard of review following the termination of parental rights

Issue: Under Illinois law, what is the standard of review applied on appeal following the termination of parental rights?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: ; Standard of Review; Termination; Parental Rights; Preponderance of Evidence
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2016

A trial court makes a determination to terminate parental rights using a preponderance of the evidence standard. In re D.T., 212 Ill.2d 347, 365 (2004). On review, an appeals court will assess whether that determination to terminate parental rights is against the manifest weight of the evidence. In re D.S., 2011 IL App. (3d) 110184, ¶ 33.

It is well settled that once a parent has been found to be unfit the focus shifts to what would be in the best interest of the child. In re D.T., 212 Ill.2d at 364. The issue is no longer whether parental rights can be terminated, but rather, "in light of the child’s needs, should the parental rights be terminated." (emphasis omitted) Id. Accordingly, a parent’s interest in maintaining the parent/child relationship must give way to the child’s interest in a stable, loving home life. Id.

Illinois’ parens patriae interest generally favors the preservation of the family. Id. at 366. However, "’once a court has found by clear and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit, the state’s interest in protecting the child is sufficiently compelling to allow the termination of parental rights.’" Id. (quoting In re R.C., 195 Ill. 2d 291, 308 (2001)).

In re K.L., No. 3-15-0731, 2016.IL.000232 (Feb. 2, 2016) (VersusLaw).

Date: March 1, 2016