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When Can a Parent Be Considered “Unfit” in an Illinois Family Law Case?

 Posted on February 04, 2020 in Family Law

Wheaton family law attorney for termination of parental rightsIllinois courts presume that it is in a child’s best interests to have both parents involved in their life. However, it takes a great deal of responsibility and attention to adequately care for a child. If a parent cannot satisfactorily provide for a child’s needs, or if spending time with the parent may put the child in danger, the parent may be considered “unfit.” When a parent is declared unfit, the courts no longer presume that it is in the child’s best interests to spend time with that parent. When addressing family law issues, the parties involved will want to understand how parental fitness laws may affect the outcome of their case.

Illinois Law Regarding Parental Fitness

The issue of parental fitness is often explored during adoption. Typically, consent from both biological parents is required for an adoption to occur. However, if a parent is found to be unfit by “clear and convincing evidence,” the parent’s parental rights may be terminated. The adoption may then be permitted even without that parent’s consent. An unfit parent is typically defined as a parent who does not have the child’s best interests at heart. In Illinois, parental rights can only be terminated through a juvenile case initiated by the state or in conjunction with the Adoption Act. During a parental fitness hearing, the burden of proof is on the party claiming that the parent is unfit.

The following issues are often used as grounds to establish that a parent is unfit in Illinois:

  • Child abandonment

  • Lack of interest in participating in the child’s life

  • Physical abuse

  • Extreme or frequent cruelty to the child

  • Recurrent substantial neglect of the child

  • Lack of concern regarding the child’s well-being and safety

  • Failure to protect the child from unsafe situations

  • Conviction of certain crimes, such as sexual assault, murder, or crimes against children

  • Addiction or substance abuse

  • Recurring failure to provide the child with food, clothing, or shelter despite having the means to do so

  • Mental impairment or mental illness that is substantial enough to prevent the parent from fulfilling necessary parental obligations

In some situations, a parent who objects to the termination of his or her parental rights may argue against the termination. The parent and his or her attorney will need to provide evidence that demonstrates that he or she is not unfit. This could include showing that the parent has attempted to form a good relationship with the child, communicate with the child, or pay child support.

Contact a Wheaton Adoption Lawyer

Parental rights may be involuntarily terminated if a parent is proven to be unfit to adequately care for the child. To learn more about parental fitness concerns, contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney at The Stogsdill Law Firm P.C. Call our office today at 630-462-9500 to schedule a confidential consultation.





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