Legal Memorandum: Rules governing involuntary termination of parental rights

Issue: Under Illinois law, what rules govern the involuntary termination of a parent’s rights?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: ; Parent’s Rights; Termination; Juvenile Court Act
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2016

A court’s statutory authority to involuntarily terminate a parent’s rights is governed by the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 ([statref]705 ILCS 405/1-1 et seq. (West 2014) [/statref]) and the Adoption Act ([statref]750 ILCS 50/0.01 et seq. (West 2014) [/statref]). Because termination of parental rights constitutes a permanent and complete severance of the parent-child relationship, a higher evidentiary standard must be applied to reduce the risk that the parent’s fundamental rights to her child will be improperly terminated. In re Cornica J., 351 Ill. App. 3d 557, 566 (2004). Under the Juvenile Court Act, a parent’s rights cannot be terminated without consent unless the court first determines, by clear and convincing evidence, that the parent is an unfit person as defined in section 1(D) of the Adoption Act ([statref]750 ILCS 50/1(D) (West 2014) [/statref]). In re Gwynne P., 215 Ill. 2d 340, 354 (2005). The State bears the burden of proof. Id. Every matter concerning parental fitness is sui generis; therefore, each case must be decided on the particular facts and circumstances presented. Id. "Only one ground of unfitness needs to be proved by clear and convincing evidence in order to find a parent unfit." In re R.L., 352 Ill. App. 3d 985, 998 (2004).

A parent’s failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility as to her child’s welfare is a ground for finding the parent unfit. [statref]750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b) (West 2014) [/statref]. This language is in the disjunctive, so […]