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What Are the Criteria for a Fit and Unfit Parent in Illinois?

Little girl with toy standing in front of her drunk father.

Courts give parents wide latitude in deciding how to raise their children. There are circumstances, however, under which the courts may strip a parent of their parental rights. These criteria may be used to give one parent sole custody in a custody dispute or to remove a child from the care of both parents in favor of a state-appointed guardian or another interested family member. Below, we discuss the criteria for establishing the fitness of a parent in Illinois. Call a seasoned Chicago child custody and divorce attorney for help with an Illinois custody dispute or other family law matter.

Elements to Establish a Parent is Unfit

Parental fitness is often raised during custody disputes. Courts prefer to grant shared custody between both parents, but if a court determines that one parent is not able to provide a safe and secure environment for a child, the court can strip decision-making authority from that parent and place restrictions on their parenting time. In Illinois, parental unfitness is often defined as not having the child’s best interests at heart.

Any one of the following, or a combination thereof, could demonstrate a parent’s lack of fitness in Illinois:

  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • Abandonment of a child
  • Addiction or substance abuse problems
  • Neglect or other failures to provide a child with adequate food, clothing, or shelter
  • Extreme cruelty
  • A demonstrable lack of interest in or responsibility for the child
  • Conviction for certain crimes including sexual assault, murder, or crimes perpetrated against children
  • Mental impairment or illness sufficient to prevent the parent from handling their parental duties

These represent the more common criteria that are used to establish a parent as unfit, but they are not exhaustive. A more comprehensive list can be found in the Illinois Adoption Act.

A parent must be found to be unfit by “clear and convincing evidence” in order to fully terminate their parental rights. Supporting evidence may come in the form of testimony from friends, family members, and other witnesses; emails, texts, and other communications; medical records; criminal records; photographs and videos; and any other evidence supporting a charge that the parent is not fit.

Talk to your child custody attorney if you believe your co-parent poses a danger to the health and safety of your children, or if you have been wrongfully accused of lacking parental fitness.

Trusted Advice and Representation for Your Illinois Custody Matter

If you are dealing with child custody, divorce, spousal support, or any other family law issue in Illinois, contact the knowledgeable and talented Carol Stream family law attorneys at Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt for a consultation on your case at 630-665-9600.

Johnson Westra Broker Whittaker & Newitt, P.C.

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Phone: 630-665-9600

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