The parties, James and Maria, lived together, and never married. Maria adopted a child, Scarlett. James had never formally adopted the child, but the parties had discussed it. The parties had lived together with the child for several years. They saw themselves as a legally-bound family unit. The parties broke up, and James went to court. He wanted to be named the father. He wanted to have custody or visitation rights. He filed under what is known as “the equitable parent doctrine”, and under a common law argument.
The Court said there is no equitable parent doctrine in Illinois. And, he is not Scarlett’s biological or legally adoptive father. James does not meet the definition of a parent under the Parentage Act. James appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.
The supreme court denied his petition. The supreme court pointed out that the idea of equitable adoption had been neither outright recognized nor outright rejected in Illinois. But, it had been considered in detail in the DeHart probate case. This court considered the question of what the right circumstances would be to have such a doctrine. If James did not actually adopt Scarlett, what did he need to prove to establish an equitable adoption? Was the court ready to allow parenting when the parent did not adopt or be part of the child’s birth?
The court held that an equitable adoption would be recognized in Illinois “only in those cases where there is 1) sufficient, objective evidence of an intent to adopt 2) (or fraudulently or mistakenly holding out as a natural child on a continual basis), 3) supported by a close enduring familial relationship.”
The case was sent back to the trial court. That court should look at more of the facts to see if there is a “need in justice for this extraordinary equitable intervention.” The trial court could decide that there is no basis for James to be a parent in this case. It could also determine that there is one. And, this is how new law evolves.
In re Parentage of Scarlett Z.-D., 2014 IL App (2d) 120266-B.
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