It’s not uncommon for divorced parents to have disagreements about raising their children, and many divorced parents feel as though their custody arrangements are imbalanced, impractical, or fail to suit their children’s best interests. If you are concerned about your ex’s custody rights or believe they have done something that should result in termination of their custody rights, call our firm. It’s essential to raise your concerns with an experienced Illinois family law attorney as soon as possible.

Termination of Parental Rights is an extreme measure that typically only comes into play when a parent has abused or neglected their child in some way. However, other actions, such as conviction for certain felony offenses, may also result in the involuntary termination of the offending parent’s parental rights. Every parent in Illinois must understand Termination of Parental Rights and how this legal concept may come into play in their own situations.

What Can Lead to Termination of Parental Rights?

Termination of Parental Rights can arise in many ways, and it is not always involuntary. For example, if a child’s biological parent does not wish to have any parental responsibilities to the child and the child’s other biological parent remarries, if the stepparent is willing to adopt the child, the biological parent can voluntarily surrender their parental rights. It is also possible for a father to voluntarily terminate their parental rights if a DNA test reveals they are not the actual biological father of a child.

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights comes into play when the court determines that a child’s parent is unfit for some reason. Some of the most commonly cited reasons for a court to involuntarily terminate a parent’s parental rights include:

  • Evidence that the parent has sexually abused the child.
  • Evidence of the parent’s physical abuse or neglect of the child.
  • Discovery that the child was conceived through sexual assault.
  • Failure of a parent to maintain consistent contact with the child.
  • Failure to protect the child from dangerous conditions in their environment.
  • Habitual substance abuse.
  • Conviction of “depraved” crimes, including crimes of a sexual nature or murder.
  • Failing to maintain reasonable interest and responsibility for the child.
  • Extreme or consistent cruelty against the child.
  • Failure to provide the child with basic living needs.
  • An incurable mental illness or disability that prevents the parent from providing for their child’s basic needs.

Parental rights may be involuntarily terminated through a juvenile case opened by the state or an adoption case. If a child’s biological parent remarries and the child has a stepparent who is willing and able to adopt the child, the resulting adoption case may involve the involuntary termination of the other biological parent’s parental rights under certain conditions. It is also possible for the other parent to voluntarily surrender their parental rights if they are willing to do so.

In the event a stepparent is not willing to adopt the child in question, the state may initiate a juvenile case to determine whether involuntary termination of parental rights is a reasonable decision. Typically, family courts in Illinois and throughout the US uphold that every child deserves access to two parents and will not terminate parental rights unless there is a stepparent willing to adopt the child in question. However, if a parent’s behavior indicates a clear danger to the child’s safety and wellbeing, the court may overlook this usual requirement.

What Can I Do to Terminate My Ex’s Parental Rights?

Divorced parents must understand that they cannot actively seek involuntary termination of an ex’s parental rights outside the context of adoption or a juvenile case opened by the state. However, you do have the option to file a petition for modification of your Allocation of Parenting Time and Parental Rights.  If you believe your current custody and support terms do not suit your child’s best interests, you have the ability to file a petition with the Illinois family court for modification of your custody order.

An experienced Illinois family law attorney can help you draft your petition and ensure it meets all applicable legal requirements. When the court receives this petition, they will set a hearing date to provide all parties involved with the matter an opportunity to speak on the issue. At this hearing, you and your attorney can present evidence of the other parent’s unfitness, and the court will make a determination based on the evidence provided.

It’s possible that the court may decide that Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights is too severe a punishment for the situation in question, but the evidence you provide may compel the court to adjust your Allocation of Parenting Time and Parental Rights in your favor, resulting in greater custody rights than you previously had. Depending on the reason why the court decided to terminate your ex’s parental rights, you may also recover additional child support or restitution if the issue involves criminal matters.

What Happens After My Ex’s Parental Rights Are Terminated?

If your child’s other parent loses their custody rights involuntarily, your new spouse may adopt your child and provide them with the same legal protections a biological child would have. If you are concerned about your ex somehow reacquiring their parental rights, this is not realistic as there are currently no legal avenues for overturning an adoption or reinstating parental rights that were previously terminated.

In the event your matter concluded with a modification to your Allocation of Parenting Time and Parental Rights, there is potential for your child’s other parent to file their own petition for modification in the future. The family court system of Illinois has a legal duty to uphold the best interests of any child beholden to a family court order, and if your ex proves they have overcome whatever circumstances led to the reduction of their custody rights, they may successfully argue for another adjustment to the Allocation of Parenting Time and Parental Rights in the future.

Ultimately, Termination of Parental Rights is a serious matter that demands the attention of an experienced Illinois family law attorney. Whether you are concerned about losing your own parental rights or if you believe your child’s other parent poses a significant danger to your kids, you must know how to navigate these difficult legal proceedings. Contact an experienced Illinois family law attorney as soon as possible if you need to discuss Termination of Parental Rights in any aspect.