Legal Memorandum: Court’s bifurcated approach for determining whether to terminate parental rights

Issue: Under Illinois law, how do courts determine whether or not to terminate parental rights?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: ; Parental Rights; Bifurcate; Unfit; Terminate; Best Interest of the Child; Juvenile Court Act
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2016

Proceedings on a petition for termination of parental rights involve a two-step, bifurcated approach where the court first conducts a fitness hearing ([statref]705 ILCS 405/2-29 (West 2012)[/statref]; [statref]750 ILCS 50/1(D) (West 2012)[/statref]) and, if the trial court adjudicates the parent unfit, the court then must conduct a best interest hearing where the court considers whether it is in the best interest of the child that parental rights be terminated. [statref]705 ILCS 405/2-29 (2) (West 2012)[/statref]; In re D.F., 201 Ill.2d 476, 494-95 (2002).

When a court makes a best interest decision under a termination petition, the parent’s interest in maintaining a parent-child relationship must yield to the child’s interest in living in a loving, stable and safe home environment. D.T., 212 Ill.2d at 364; S.D., L.D., & E.T., at ¶ 34. Section 1-3(4.05) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 requires the court to consider the following factors during a best interest hearing: (a) the physical safety and welfare of the child, including food, shelter, health, and clothing; (b) the development of the child’s identity; (c) the child’s background and ties, including familial, cultural, and religious; (d) the child’s sense of attachments, including (i) where the child actually feels love, attachment, and a sense of being valued; (ii) the child’s sense of security; (iii) the child’s sense of familiarity; (iv) continuity of affection for the child; and (v) the least disruptive placement alternative for the child; (e) the child’s wishes and […]

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