Legal Memorandum: Parental rights can be terminated with a two-step process

Issue: Under Illinois law, what is the process for termination of parental rights?

Area of Law: Family Law, Litigation Practice & Procedure, Litigation Practice and Procedure
Keywords: ; Juvenile Court Act; Termination; Parental Rights; Process; Adoption Act; Clear and Convincing
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2016

The Juvenile Court Act of 1987 establishes a two-step process for terminating parental rights involuntarily. [statref]705 ILCS 405/2-29(2) (West 2012)[/statref]. The State must first prove by clear and convincing evidence that the parent is an unfit person as defined by section 1(D) of the Adoption Act. In re Tiffany M., 353 Ill.App.3d 883, 889 (2004). Section 1(D) of the Adoption Act sets forth numerous grounds under which a parent can be found unfit, any one of which standing alone will support a finding of unfitness. Id. A circuit court’s determination that there is clear and convincing evidence of parental unfitness will not be disturbed on review unless it is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. Id. at 891.

If the circuit court finds the parent to be unfit, the court must then determine whether it is in the child’s best interest that parental rights be terminated. [statref]705 ILCS 405/2-29(2) (West 2012)[/statref]. At this stage, the focus of the court’s scrutiny shifts from the rights of the parent to the best interest of the child. In re B.B., 386 Ill.App.3d 686, 697 (2008). To terminate parental rights, the State bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that termination is in the minor’s best interest. In re D.T., 212 Ill.2d 347, 366 (2004). A trial court’s determination that termination of parental rights is in the child’s best interest will not be disturbed on review unless it is contrary […]