When a child’s complete separation from a parent is warranted in Illinois, the courts may terminate parental rights as part of an adoption by someone else or as part of a juvenile case when abuse, neglect or abandonment is proved. Parents, guardians, or other family members may file a petition to terminate a parent’s legal rights. Unless the parent in question voluntarily consents to the termination, the process requires the court to evaluate the fitness of the parent and whether terminating the parent’s rights would be in the child’s best interests.
What It Means to Terminate Parental Rights
When the parental rights of one parent are terminated, the mother or father is no longer legally responsible for the child. Consequently, that parent will lose his or her right to make decisions regarding the child and he or she will no longer be entitled to parenting time.
The termination of parental rights is governed by the Illinois Adoption Act. Under the law, the courts are required to perform a two-part analysis.
Unfit for Parenting
With the exception of cases in which a child’s biological mother or father consents to the termination of parental rights to allow for a stepparent’s adoption, terminating rights requires proof that the parent in question is unfit to provide proper parenting for the child.
This could include cases where the parent is:
- deemed unfit due to mental incapacity or illness
- determined to be chronically negligent in the child’s care
- convicted or jailed
- negligent in providing provide food, clothing, and other necessities for the child despite being able to do so
- proven to have physically abused the child on two or more occasions, or has abused the child to the point of causing the child’s death
Doing What’s Right for the Child
In court cases that involve children, including divorce cases, the child’s best interests are the main focus of the court. Because of this, courts consider the child’s health and safety, as well as his or her reasonable preferences, and the impact the termination would have on the mental and physical well being of the child.