Child custody cases are inherently emotional legal disputes in the Metro East, IL, family court system. The outcome of any child custody determination will impact the lives of the children affected by the order and their parents for many years. In addition, unmarried parents may need to resolve custody and support for their children if they decide to no longer live together, and married parents must settle custody as an element of divorce.

Parents may face diminished custody rights from their custody determinations. It often requires an extended period of adjustment before the parents and their children become accustomed to their new reality. However, some parents may be denied custody rights for assorted reasons, and there are several ways a parent can lose custody and visitation rights. Therefore, it’s vital for all parents in Metro East, IL, with custody orders to understand their rights and obligations under these orders and how parental rights can be lost.

Can a Parent Voluntarily Surrender Their Custody Rights?

It is possible for a biological parent to want no custody over their child, granting sole legal custody to the child’s other biological parent. However, this would not release the noncustodial parent from their child support obligation. The family courts of Illinois maintain that a child benefits most from access to both of their parents. If one parent is unwilling to assume custodial responsibility for their child, they are still financially responsible for them until a stepparent adopts the child.

Voluntary surrender of parental rights is often a requirement in adoption cases. If a noncustodial parent no longer wishes to have any child support obligation for their biological child and the custodial parent has married a stepparent who is willing to adopt, the noncustodial parent can be released from their support obligation and will permanently lose custody rights. It would be challenging for any parent to regain custody rights after a voluntary surrender, and there are no legal mechanisms for overturning or undoing a legal adoption in Illinois.

What Is Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights?

While some parents voluntarily terminate their rights to custody for adoption, other parents lose their parental rights against their will due to poor decisions. For example, it’s possible for a judge handling a custody case to determine that one of the child’s parents is unfit. This means the judge has reason to believe the parent cannot handle their child’s basic needs and/or poses a safety risk to the child. As a result, some parents may qualify for limited visitation, typically with supervision requirements, but others may lose their parental rights entirely.

It is also possible for a parent who has custody or visitation rights to lose their rights in the future because of their behavior. For example, if a parent has limited custody rights over their child but commits a violent felony, an act of child abuse, or any other serious criminal offense, they will very likely lose those custody rights due to their actions. Some of the most commonly reported causes of involuntary termination of parental rights in Metro East, IL, are:

  • Criminal conviction. Certain criminal offenses will prohibit the offender from retaining any child custody rights or visitation rights they may have had. Crimes involving children are most likely to impact custody, even if the victim is not the defendant’s child. If a judge has any reason to believe the parent poses a danger to their child, the judge will likely strip custody rights as an element of sentencing.
  • Substance abuse. If a parent is found to have any substance abuse disorder, a judge handling their custody dispute would be unlikely to grant custody or visitation rights. When a parent loses custody in this manner, they may need to complete an extensive recovery program and prove extended sobriety before they can petition for visitation.
  • Mental illness. When a parent has a mental illness that prevents them from handling their child’s everyday needs, this can cause them to terminate the parent’s custody and visitation rights. Mental illnesses can manifest in several ways and impose a host of unpredictable symptoms, and a judge would be unwilling to place a child in a potentially dangerous situation.

These are just a few possible examples of situations that would likely warrant removal of parental rights in Metro East, IL. If a parent has their parental rights involuntarily removed, it is doubtful that they will ever be able to regain any measure of them in the future.

Some possible exceptions include a noncustodial parent who has completed a substance abuse treatment program and continued paying child support as required during their recovery. A parent in this situation would need to make a compelling case that restoring custody or visitation rights would suit their child’s best interests. However, if the reason for the termination of parental rights involves any child abuse, domestic violence, or severe criminal behavior, the parent may not only lose parental rights but also face a restraining order.

Illinois family court judges can issue restraining orders against noncustodial parents who have had their parental rights terminated if they believe doing so is in the child’s best interests. The restraining order will prevent the parent in question from contacting the child or their custodial parent or coming within close proximity to them, their home, the child’s school, and the custodial parent’s workplace. Violating a restraining order carries severe penalties, including fines and incarceration.

Find Legal Counsel for Your Child Custody Dispute

Whether you are a custodial parent trying to keep your child safe from a dangerous co-parent or fighting wrongful allegations that you are a threat to your child’s health and safety, you must have legal counsel you can trust for your child custody dispute. Whether you are facing a complex divorce, a custody dispute as an unmarried parent, or are addressing a serious criminal issue involving your child’s other parent, an experienced attorney is the best resource to have for any custody battle. If you have any concerns about the termination of parental rights, consult an experienced Metro East, IL, custody attorney.