A child’s parents are arguably the most important individuals in his or her life. Consequently, Illinois Courts do not interfere with the parent-child relationship unless there are extreme circumstances. Parents have the right to spend time with their children and be involved in their children’s lives. However, there are situations in which a parent may lose some or all of his or her parental rights. Parental unfitness can take many different forms, but the consequences of being deemed unfit are usually profound.
What is an Unfit Parent?
An unfit parent is incapable or unwilling to provide for a child’s basic needs and keep the child safe. Illinois law specifically states that a parent may be considered unfit if he or she:
- Abandons the child
- Neglects the child
- Mentally, emotionally, or physically abuses the child
- Has a serious drug or alcohol addiction
- Has a mental illness that prohibits him or her from carrying out parenting duties
- Puts the child in a dangerous living environment
- Is currently incarcerated
- Is not concerned for the child’s welfare
- Subjects the child to extreme or repeated cruelty
- Has been convicted of certain violent criminal offenses
Failure to pay child support is not considered grounds to declare a parent unfit. Parental fitness is assessed on a case-by-case basis. For example, a parent’s incarceration does not automatically make him or her unfit. The Court will consider evidence and testimony from multiple sources before issuing a ruling about a parent’s fitness.
How Can I Prove a Parent is Unfit?
If you believe your child’s other parent is unfit and should not have full parental responsibilities or parenting time, the burden of proof is on you. You must show sufficient evidence of the parent’s inability to care for the child. Evidence may be in the form of:
- Medical records showing the effects of abuse or neglect on the child
- Police reports
- Criminal records
- Text messages, voicemails, emails, or other communication
- Photographs and videos of dangerous living environments or mistreatment
The Court only terminates a parent’s parental rights entirely in extreme situations. The Court may also decide to reduce a parent’s rights through restricted parenting time. For example, the Court may require that parenting time be supervised or that a parent finish a drug or alcohol treatment program before enjoying unrestricted parenting time with his or her child.
Contact a Palatine Family Law Attorney
Parental fitness may be an issue that arises during child custody disputes, adoption cases, or other family law matters. If you have concerns about your child’s other parent or if your own parental fitness has been called into question, contact the Law Office of Nicholas W. Richardson, P.C. for help. Arlington Heights family lawyer Nicholas Richardson can explain your options and ensure your rights are protected throughout your case. Call 847.873.6741 for a confidential consultation today.