Termination of parental rights in Cook County, Illinois

The termination of a Cook County parent’s rights is one of the most extreme family law measures that a court can take. Generally the termination of a parent’s rights is done outside of the context of a divorce and is based on the best interests of a child.

When a petition to terminate parental rights is initiated, a court follows a two-step process outlined in the Juvenile Court Act.

Step one is for the court to consider whether there is “clear and convincing evidence” that a parent is an unfit person as defined in the Illinois Adoption Act.

The second step to terminating parental rights is for the court to consider whether such a drastic move would be in the best interests of a child.

Generally the “best interests” analysis is the most subjective and complex part of court proceedings. Illinois courts consider 10 factors in determining whether terminating a parent’s parental rights is in a child’s best interests:

  1. The child’s welfare and physical safety.
  2. The development of the child’s identity.
  3. The child’s background and ties, including family, culture and religion.
  4. A child’s sense of attachment, including love, security, and continuity of affection at the least-disruptive placement alternative.
  5. The child’s wishes (if old enough).
  6. The child’s community ties.
  7. The child’s need for permanence, including the need to continue stable relationships with parents or siblings.
  8. The unique situation of the family and child.
  9. Risks related to substitute care.
  10. The preferences of eligible people available to care for the child.

It is easy to see that the amount of factors considered is highly complex and subjective. Often the ability of a parent to retain parental rights is dependent on whether they have an experienced attorney on their site.

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