Can I Terminate My Ex's Parental Rights?
A questions asked by some divorcing parents is whether or not they are able to terminate the parental rights of their ex-spouse for various reasons. The answer is usually no; however, in unusual situations where a series of events have occurred, the answer may be yes. Either way, it is in your best interests to ensure that you understand your options.
Illinois' Adoption Act
Illinois law, for better or worse, does not allow one parent to simply file a petition expressing a wish to terminate his or her ex-spouse's parental rights. The wish to terminate must come along with someone willing to step into that place. Moreover, the most common situation in which this occurs is that of adoption.
The law does not favor the termination of parental rights, and to do so is not something taken lightly. Even a negligent parent can be obligated to pay child support, and if the opportunity is there for that parent to change his or her ways, the court will usually wish to preserve his or her parental rights.
In most cases, a petition will be brought under the Illinois Adoption Act, essentially arguing that the biological parent or parents are unfit. Grounds for unfitness include abandonment of the child, desertion, abrogation of child support responsibilities, and generally abandoning a child in a place or fashion that clearly establishes an intent to relinquish parental rights (for example, leaving a newborn at a hospital). If these allegations can be proven, or if the biological parent consents in writing to the adoption, the termination of parental rights and subsequent adoption may be allowed to proceed.
The other method for terminating parental rights is in juvenile court. However, termination of parental rights via juvenile courts is much rarer, primarily because neither parent may initiate such a case; it is only the state that can make the determination that termination of parental rights is necessary.
Under the Juvenile Court Act (JCA), serious abuse or neglect must be present in order for a court to even entertain terminating parental rights, which can sometimes be an issue in terms of proof. The JCA refers to the Adoption Act, which discusses unfitness at length. One way in which unfitness is measured is in terms of ‘depravity'—the Act provides a list of crimes that create a presumption of unfitness that can only be overcome by clear and convincing evidence. Some of these include murder, sexual assault and battery. Unfitness can also be measured by the number of interactions with the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) that involve allegations of physical or sexual abuse.
Enlist an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer
Your children's safety and welfare are the highest possible priority, and if you have reasonable belief that your ex may endanger your children's safety and welfare you may be able to have his or her rights terminated, especially if you are intending to remarry. If you need help in this process, or you have questions, the skilled Wheaton, Illinois family law attorneys at MKFM Law are happy to assist you. Contact us today via website or telephone at 630-665-7300 to set up an appointment.