Legal Memorandum: Court’s finding of a depraved parent

Issue: Under Illinois law, what must be shown in order to support a finding that a child’s parent is depraved?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: ; Parent; Depraved; Moral; Adoption Act; Clear and Convincing
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2016

Depravity had been defined as inherent deficiencies of moral sense and rectitude. In the Interest of A.L., 301 Ill. App. 3d 198, 202 (1998). Historically, Illinois courts had found that "a parent’s history of criminal convictions, standing alone, was not sufficient evidence of depravity." In re T.S., III, 312 Ill. App. 3d 875, 878 (2000). However, the legislature has since amended the Adoption Act providing a rebuttable presumption that the parent is depraved:

"if the parent has been convicted of at least 3 felonies under the laws of this State or any other state, or under federal law, or the criminal laws of any United States territory; and at least one of these convictions took place within 5 years of the filing of the petition or motion seeking termination of parental rights." [statref]750 ILCS 50/1(D)(i) (West 2014)[/statref].


A parent is able to rebut this presumption by presenting evidence showing that, despite these convictions, he is not depraved.  In re A.M., 358 Ill. App. 3d 247, 253 (2005). The amount of evidence necessary to assure a rebuttal is not set by any rubric. However, as assessed by the trial court, if a strong presumption arises, the weight of the evidence brought in to rebut the presumption must be just as great. Id. If sufficient evidence is presented, the burden to show depravity then shifts back to the State. That burden is to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that (1) respondent’s acts constituting […]

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