Legal Memorandum: The state must show clear and convincing evidence to support a finding of parental unfitness

Issue: Under Illinois law, what is the state’s burden when attempting to prove parental unfitness?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: ; Parent; Unfit; Burden; Clear and Convincing Evidence
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2016

At a fitness hearing, the State has the burden of proving parental unfitness by clear and convincing evidence. [statref]705 ILCS 405/2-29 (West 2014)[/statref]; In re Jordan V., 347 Ill.App.3d 1057, 1067 (2004). When the State seeks to terminate someone’s parental rights, each case is "sui generis and must be decided based on the particular facts and circumstances presented." In re D.D., 196 Ill.2d 405, 422 (2001) (citing In re Adoption of Syck, 138 Ill.2d 255, 279 (1990)).

Reviewing courts will not overturn a trial court’s finding of unfitness in a termination of parental rights proceeding unless it is against the manifest weight of the evidence. In re S.H., 2014 IL App. (3d) 140500, ¶ 28. A trial court’s finding of unfitness is given great deference due to its superior opportunity to evaluate the credibility of witnesses. In re Jordan V., 347 Ill.App.3d at 1067. "A determination will be found to be against the manifest weight of the evidence only if the opposite conclusion is clearly evident [citation] or the determination is unreasonable, arbitrary, or not based on the evidence presented [citation]." In re D.F., 201 Ill.2d 476, 498 (2002).

In re D.R., E.R., M.R., A.R. and Sy.D, No. 3-15-0663, 3-15-0664, 3-150665, 3-15-0666, 3-15-0667, 2016.IL.0000231 (Ill. Ct. App. Feb. 8, 2016) (VersusLaw).

Date: March 1, 2016