a broken family photo
A broken black-and-white photo, dividing a father from a mother and children

An allegation of misbehavior or non-traditional conduct is not enough to show that a parent is unfit. To establish parental misconduct, the behavior must result in a lack of proper care for the children or negatively impact the parent-child relationship.

Parental Misconduct and Loss of Custody

The paramount concern of Illinois courts in child custody cases is to ensure that the custody arrangements provide for the safety and needs of the child. Under these guidelines, parental misconduct, or misbehavior, that impacts the well-being of the children or relationships with their parents can result in the court removing parenting and custody privileges.

Non-Traditional Behavior is not Misconduct

Not all non-traditional conduct is grounds for determining that a parent is unfit. In the past, living out of wedlock with another person or using drugs might have been sufficient reason to declare a parent unfit.

More recently, Illinois courts have accepted that conduct like unmarried cohabitation or even recreational drug use, while not traditional behaviors, do not necessarily establish parental misconduct. To remove a parent’s custody rights, the behavior must harm the children and the parental relationship.

Behaviors that may be considered parental misconduct include:

  • Abandonment
  • Failure to provide for the child’s needs
  • Addiction
  • Placing the child in a dangerous situation
  • Felony criminal convictions, especially for serious crimes or for sexual misconduct

When a Parent Is Wrongly Accused of Misconduct

When a child custody attorney reviews a parental misconduct case, they first establish the nature of the alleged misconduct. Often, the conduct is merely non-traditional behavior, not in keeping with an ex-spouse’s lifestyle views. This does not constitute misconduct.

A parent who is wrongly accused of misconduct must prepare a defense to protect their custody and parenting rights. If they can demonstrate that their non-traditional conduct does not negatively impact the child’s wellbeing or the parental relationship, they will retain their custody rights.

The Best Interests of Children Regardless of Lifestyle

To protect their custody rights, parents should have a clear understanding of behaviors that could result in a declaration of parental misconduct. Acting in the best interests of their children, regardless of their personal lifestyle choices, is always the best way to protect custody and parenting rights.