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Unfit Parents in Illinois

An unfit parent cannot be trusted with the responsibilities of a parent. A parent is unfit if there is proof of them doing things like abusing, abandoning, or neglecting. If a parent is deemed unfit, they will no longer have custody of the child.

It is a serious claim to say someone is an unfit parent and the court will not take it lightly. To prove someone is unfit, they must meet one of the criteria listed below. There will also need to be solid proof of their unfit actions.

Defining an Unfit Parent

In Illinois, the state statutes define an unfit parent as a parent who should not be trusted to take care of a child. The court usually looks to identify if a parent is unfit as part of a custody and placement case.

Either parent can accuse the other parent of being unfit. However, there is a high bar of proof that needs to be met before a parent stops being trusted with the care of their child. A parent can be accused of being unfit for a variety of reasons. What that reason is will determine how hard it is to prove whether they are unfit.

To understand child custody and what makes someone unfit, it can also help to look at Illinois’s custody laws.

How to Prove the Other Parent Is Unfit

Determining that someone is unfit has major consequences. To prove someone is unfit, there will need to be convincing evidence.

Any evidence should point to proving the other parent did something that makes them unfit. If one of the following points can be proved, there is grounds to decide the person is unfit:

  • Abandonment of the child;
  • Extreme or repeated cruelty to the child;
  • Continuous or repeated substantial neglect of the child;
  • Failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility for the child's welfare;
  • Failure to protect the child from conditions in their environment that negatively impact their welfare;
  • Conviction of crimes that prove “depravity” (such as murder or sexual assault);
  • Continuous or repeated failure to provide the child with adequate food, clothing, or shelter despite being physically and financially capable;
  • Mental impairment or illness that prevents the parent from properly caring for the child;
  • Addiction to drugs or alcohol; or
  • The finding of drugs in a child’s system.[1]

With the high bar of evidence needed, proving someone to be an unfit parent is no easy task. It’s best to take on this task with an experienced attorney such as one from Sterling Lawyers, LLC.

Evidence to Establish a Parent Is Unfit

The court maintains a high expectation of evidence when it comes to proving a parent is unfit. The court will not accept rumors or a person’s word alone as proof.

The burden of proof is on the person claiming that the other party is unfit. This means it is your job to provide convincing evidence using things such as:

  • Medical documents (injuries, sicknesses related to the home environment, etc.);
  • Photographs or videos (proving abuse, neglect, or the state of the home);
  • Police reports and criminal records; or
  • Relevant emails, text messages, social media posts, etc.

Proving a parent is unfit can be a daunting task because it's hard to know what will convince the judge. A family law attorney who has been through these kinds of cases before is a big help. Getting a lawyer involved early is the best way to make sure the situation is handled quickly and efficiently.

Counterclaim to Accusation of Unfitness

During the case, the other party will have the opportunity to argue that they are not an unfit parent. They may say things like:

  • They tried to have and create a relationship with the child.
  • They pay child support because they care for the child.
  • They tried to visit, call, or send letters to the child.
  • The other parent wasn’t allowing them to contact or support the best interest of the child.
  • There were other things in the way of them creating a relationship with the child.

For these arguments to have any effect, that party would need evidence to back up their claims.

For Immediate help with your family law case or answering any questions please call (312) 757-8082 now!


What Are Examples of a Fit vs. Unfit Parent?

An unfit parent is one that meets one of the factors listed above. However, things are not always a simple yes or no.

For example, a parent may struggle with addiction, but if they can prove they have been clean for a certain amount of time or are in a rehab program, the court may look more favorably on them. Or, if a parent has a mental illness and they are in therapy and/or taking medication in accordance with their doctor, the court may not deem them as unfit.

What Happens if a Parent Is Deemed Unfit?

When the court decides one parent is unfit, the other parent gets a greater ability to make decisions for the child and more time with the child. The more unfit that person is, the greater the difference between the parent’s custody and placement will be.

The court can even go so far as to only give the unfit parent supervised visitation. This is where the other parent or a different trusted party is also present when the unfit parent sees the child.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is classified as an unfit parent?

An unfit parent is one who is unable to care for their child or has neglected or abused their child. This has a negative impact on the child. The court wants to remove the negative impact for the best interest of the child.

How do I get full custody of my child in Illinois?

Full custody or sole custody is when one parent has total decision-making rights over their child. To get this, you must prove it is in the child’s best interest that you have sole custody.

Can parental responsibility be taken away from a mother?

Parental responsibility, also called custody, can be taken from a mother. The court wants to do what is in the best interest of the child. So, if it isn’t in the child’s best interest for the mother to have custody, then she will not have custody.

How can a mother lose custody of her child in Illinois?

A mother can lose custody of her child if there is evidence that she is unable to take care of her child. For example, if there is proof the mother intentionally abandoned the child, that is grounds for the mother to lose custody.

How do you prove an unfit father in Illinois?

To prove that the father is an unfit parent, they must meet one of the factors to establish grounds for unfitness above. This could be due to things like abandonment, addiction, or abuse. For a father to lost custody, they have to be proven as unfit because fathers do have custody rights.

How do you prove my ex is an unfit mother?

To prove your ex is an unfit mother, they must have done something that deems them as an unfit parent. If your ex has done any of the above listed factors, then there are grounds for them to be deemed unfit.

When can a child choose which parent to live with in Illinois?

A child always gets a say in which parent they live with. But they don’t get to make the decision for themself. Rather, their opinion is considered by the court along with all the other placement factors.

Reference: 1. 750 ILCS § 50/1 (D)(a-t). Adoption Act.

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