Courts Hesitate to Terminate Parental Rights

Courts Hesitate to Terminate Parental RightsCourts do not take lightly their decisions to terminate parents' rights. Even when one parent shows signs of being unfit or disinterested, the court is more likely to limit the parent’s rights than eliminate them. Illinois law allows two circumstances in which a court may rule on whether to terminate a parent’s rights:

  • When a non-biological parent is trying to adopt a child; and
  • When the state charges a parent with serious abuse or neglect.

Illinois courts work with a rebuttable presumption that a child is always better off having two legal parents, even if one of them is absent or unfit.

Parental Fitness

Proving that a parent is unfit will not guarantee that a court will terminate a parent’s rights, but it is often the first step in the process. The court will need evidence that the parent is a danger to the child or is disinterested in the child’s wellbeing. Examples include:

  • Abandoning the child at birth;
  • Deserting the child for prolonged periods with no attempt to make contact;
  • Repeated abuse;
  • Substantial neglect;
  • Conviction for murder or related charges;
  • Habitual substance abuse; and
  • Failure to reasonably try to improve conditions that endanger a child.

A court is likely to limit an unfit parent’s contact with a child until the parent can demonstrate his or her fitness and reliability. It is only in severe cases of abuse or neglect that the court will grant the state’s request to terminate parental rights.


Illinois courts prefer to maintain some of an unfit parent’s rights unless there is another adult willing to adopt the child. Responsibilities to a child go with a parent’s rights. By terminating a parent’s rights, that parent would no longer be required to pay child support. The remaining parent and child would be under greater financial hardship, while the former parent may view the decision as a financial gain. With adoption, the court is reassured that there will be two parents to support the child if it terminates the unfit parent’s rights.

Rights and Responsibilities

There are wellbeing and financial factors to consider when determining whether parents should keep their rights. A parent cannot request that the other parent’s rights be terminated if the decision is not in the best interest of the child. A parent cannot abandon his or her obligations to a child by voluntarily giving up his or her parental rights. A Kane County family law attorney at the Law Office of Martoccio & Martoccio can help you navigate issues of parental rights and responsibilities in court. Schedule a free consultation by calling 331-588-6611.


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