How to Relinquish Parental Rights in Illinois
By Jayne Thompson
Updated July 25, 2018
The termination of parental rights is a serious decision, usually reserved for cases of proven parental abandonment, abuse or neglect. In Illinois, the only real way to give up your rights voluntarily is if the child is being adopted. Illinois presumes that it's in the child's best interest if both parents keep their rights, so even if you think the child is better off without you, the court may not agree.
You cannot voluntarily give up your parental rights in Illinois unless the child is being placed for adoption.
Giving Up Parental Rights in Illinois
You can't simply walk away from your father's rights in Illinois just because you don't want to be involved in the child's life anymore: you have to get an order from the court. Generally, the courts will only give an order if the child is being adopted or you are deemed unfit to act as a parent, in which case the state will file a juvenile case. This is not something that you or your lawyer can file. Otherwise, there could be lots of parents trying to give up their parental rights just because they want to stop paying child support.
When the Other Parent Consents
Illinois prefers kids to have two parents and usually will not allow you to relinquish your parental rights unless the custodial parent agrees. Even then, a judge will only consider your case if someone new is willing to step into your shoes. For example, you might be able to terminate your rights if the custodial parent has a new spouse who is willing to adopt the child and assume responsibilities for financial support. In this situation, it would be up to your ex-partner to file a petition for adoption. If you sign a consent to the adoption, it's likely a judge will sign an order terminating your parental rights.
When There's No Prospect of Adoption
If there's no possibility for an adoption, the only way to terminate your parental rights is if the court finds that you're an unfit parent. Generally, this means that you've abandoned or neglected the child, disregarded her welfare or have treated her with extreme or repeated cruelty. Only the state can bring this type of case to court. It's important to note that, even if a judge finds you unfit, she might not terminate your parental rights. The child would be placed in the care of relatives or a foster family, but you may still be entitled to supervised visitation rights and be obligated to pay child support.
What Signing Over Parental Rights in Illinois Means
When the court makes an order for the termination of parental rights in Illinois, it means that you're no longer entitled to see the child or make decisions about her education, upbringing and care. It also means that your financial obligations cease, so you will no longer have to pay child support. The reason why judges will permit a voluntary termination in adoption cases is to ensure that there are always two parents with responsibility for providing financial support. Otherwise, the remaining custodial parent might need public assistance to support the child, putting a burden on the state.
A former real estate lawyer, Jayne Thompson writes about law, business and corporate communications, drawing on 17 years’ experience in the legal sector. She holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Birmingham and a Masters in International Law from the University of East London.