Termination of Parental Rights
For Muslim families in the Oakbrook Terrace area, family law issues involving parenthood and the termination of parental rights can be difficult ones to face. Generally speaking, the Illinois courts want to do their best to keep both parents in a child’s life and to ensure that the child has both parents play a role in the child’s life and upbringing as long as it is in the best interests of the child. Yet in some situations, it may be in the best interests of the child to terminate the rights of a parent. What does it mean when the law decides to terminate a parent’s rights? In short, it means that the parent not only will not be responsible financially for the child, but that parent also will not make any decisions about the child’s care or upbringing.
Voluntary Termination and the Adoption Act
It is important to understand that Illinois law does not allow one parent simply to petition to terminate the other parent’s rights. Rather, parental rights can be terminated either voluntarily or involuntarily, and the court takes these cases very seriously. Under 750 ILCS 50/1 and other relevant Illinois law, the voluntary termination of a parent’s rights generally can occur in one of the following circumstances:
- Parent surrenders a child to an adoption agency;
- Parent agrees to adoption proceedings; and
- Putative father waives rights to object to an adoption.
As the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services makes clear, voluntary termination of parental rights will only occur when there are adoption proceedings. In other words, a parent cannot simply decide to voluntarily surrender his or her parental rights in order to avoid responsibility for a child. It is also important to understand what the law means when it refers to a “putative father.” In short, a putative father is someone who might be the child’s biological father but was not married to the child’s mother at the time of birth and has not been established as the father through a court proceeding. If a putative father wants to retain parental rights in the event of an adoption, he will have to prove that he is the legal father of the child.
Unfitness and the Best Interests of the Child
A parent’s rights can also be terminated involuntarily if the parent is proven to be unfit. In situations of unfitness, the court must decide that it is in the best interests of the child for the parental rights to be terminated. Examples of that can result in a determination of unfitness include but are not limited to:
- Abandonment of the child;
- Failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest in or concern for the child’s well-being;
- Substantial neglect;
- Extreme cruelty toward the child;
- Depravity (for example, evidence that the parent has committed murder or other severe criminal acts); and
- Alcohol abuse or drug addiction.
Given the seriousness of terminating parental rights in Illinois, this legal issue is not taken lightly. Indeed, there are only certain circumstances under which a parent’s rights can be terminated. If you have questions about terminating a parent’s rights in our state or if you need help objecting to a petition for terminating your parental rights, our dedicated Oakbrook Terrace family law attorneys can help. At Farooqi & Husain Law Office, we are committed to helping members of the Muslim community and can discuss your situation with you today. Contact us to learn more.