Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed June 19, 2014

 

 

 

 

In re N.C., 2014 IL 116532

 

Appellate citation: 2013 IL App (3d) 120438.

 

††††† JUSTICE KILBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

††††† Justices Freeman, Thomas, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

††††† Justice Theis specially concurred, with opinion, joined by Chief Justice Garman.

 

††††††††††† In February of 2012, a baby was born at Proctor Hospital in Peoria to the mother who is the appellee in this case. A little less than a month later, she married the man who, the day after the birth, had signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity under the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984. However, subsequent genetic testing would reveal that he was not the biological father.

††††††††††† The mother had previously been adjudicated an unfit parent in proceedings concerning her other three children. Four days after the birth, the State filed a neglect proceeding under the Juvenile Court Act, seeking to have the infant adjudicated neglected and made a ward of the court. Both the mother and the man who would soon become her husband were named as parties. As to him, the State alleged a criminal history, bipolar disorder, and failure to take his medication.

††††††††††† Subsequently, following the revelation that the new husband was not the biological father, the State made a motion for a declaration of nonpaternity. It asked that he be removed as a party from the neglect proceeding and that the voluntary acknowledgement of paternity be vacated.

††††††††††† The circuit court of Peoria County granted the Stateís motion for a declaration of the new husbandís nonpaternity and it discharged him as a party to the neglect proceeding. This appeal raises the question of whether the State had standing to bring this challenge and obtain this relief. After discharging the new husband from the proceeding, the court found the child neglected and the mother unfit, while naming the Department of Children and Family Services as guardian. The mother appealed.

††††††††††† The appellate court remanded for a new neglect proceeding which would include the new husband. It concluded that the State did not have standing to challenge his paternity in the neglect proceeding and that, even if it did, applicable statutory provisions had not been complied with. The State appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

††††††††††† Although the State argued that it wanted to insure that the true biological father was participating in the neglect proceeding, it had not taken steps toward the genetic testing of another man who was a possible father. The mother complained of the Stateís attempts to delegitimize her child without first establishing paternity in another putative father. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services (not DCFS) intervened as appellee.

††††††††††† In this decision, the Illinois Supreme Court said that, in the best interest of the minor, the State has standing to raise parentage issues in a neglect proceeding under the Juvenile Court Act. To do this however, the Parentage Act must be complied with and that did not occur here. The court said that the presumption of paternity created by the signing of the voluntary acknowledgement of paternity could not be challenged under section 6(d) of the Parentage Act, as asserted by the State, and, thus, there was no need to address the question of whether, under that section, the now-known DNA results raised a question of evidentiary sufficiency. The State also argued that its paternity challenge was proper under the Parentage Actís section 7(b), but the court said here that this is not statutorily authorized. Although the guardian ad litem had supported the State, the guardian had not filed the motion in question, and the Parentage Act does not authorize the State, alone, to initiate an action to disestablish paternity.

††††††††††† Although a new neglect proceeding is now called for, as ordered by the appellate court, that does not mean that disestablishment of the husbandís paternity is foreclosed. The guardian ad litem has standing to seek it and may do so on remand.

††††††††††† The appellate court was affirmed. However, if, on remand, there is a new, valid challenge to paternity by the guardian ad litem, the results of that would bear on whether a new neglect proceeding should be held.