Terminating Parental Rights
Sometimes, terminating a parent's rights is in a child’s best interest. Most often, this occurs in the case of an adoption proceeding. However, in the case of abuse, neglect or abandonment, a Court may terminate a person’s parental rights without an adoptive parent stepping in to take the abusive parent’s place.
In Illinois, there are two ways to terminate parental rights:
- In conjunction with an adoption; or
- In a juvenile case.
In an adoption, another person must step into the ex-parent’s shoes to care for the child. For example, a stepparent may adopt the child. Termination without adoption is much more difficult and requires proving that the parent has been abusive or neglectful.
Terminating a parent’s parental rights is much easier via adoption than in a juvenile proceeding. This is because Illinois law prefers that children have two parents. Generally, having two parents to provide financial support, a social support network of friends and relatives and the guidance and training that parents typically give a child is in a child’s best interest.
Moreover, it would be harmful to a child for parents to give up their parental rights simply to avoid paying child support or to avoid parental responsibilities. Thus, Illinois Courts are much more willing to terminate parental rights if there is another adoptive parent to take the place of the terminated parent and allow the child to continue having two parents.
Abuse and Neglect
Illinois law also permits a person’s parental rights to be terminated in the case of serious abuse and neglect. In contrast with an adoption case, the state, not the parent, files these cases. In order for parental rights to be terminated, the state must prove that the parent is unfit. This can be proven by showing:
- Desertion for more than three months;
- Failure to show reasonable interest in the child’s well being;
- Substantial, continuous, or repeated neglect; or
- Extreme or repeated cruelty.
Abandonment includes abandoning a newborn in a hospital or abandoning a child in any other situation meant to relinquish parental rights. The failure to communicate or visit for at least a year or failing to make a good-faith effort to pay a child’s expenses or provide reasonable support may lead to the termination of parental rights.
The Court can terminate parental rights whether or not the parent cooperates in having his or her rights terminated. Still, if the parent objects to the termination, he or she can present evidence of interest in the child’s life. Additionally, it may be especially helpful if the parent can show that the custodial parent is interfering in efforts to be a part of the child’s life.
Terminating a parent’s rights is a serious matter — only one parent will have responsibility to care for the child, house and feed the child, and make decisions regarding education, healthcare, religion, and daily childrearing issues. The parent whose rights have been terminated has no right to see the child or have input in any decisions made for the child.
If you are involved in a case involving the termination of parental rights, whether you are trying to protect your child from an abusive parent or are seeking to maintain a relationship with your child, an attorney’s advice is essential to protecting your rights and your child’s welfare. Please contact skilled Palatine family law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson for a free initial consultation.