The trial court found that father was unfit. It terminated his parental rights. Father appealed. The Appellate Court reversed the trial court decision. It sent the case back to the trial court.
There is a rebuttable presumption that a parent is depraved if the parent has been criminally convicted of at least 3 felonies. Or, if at least one of these convictions took place within 5 years of the filing of the petition seeking the termination of parental rights.
Father had five convictions related to possession or manufacture of methamphetamine. The court had found that father had a “ deficiency’ in moral sense and either an inability or an unwillingness to conform to accepted morality.”
An unrebutted presumption of depravity virtually ensures the termination of a respondent’s parental rights. The Appellate Court found that the trial court had used the wrong standard. It had foreclosed any additional argument from father regarding his alleged depravity.
Father need not rebut the presumption by clear and convincing evidence. Instead he only had to provide evidence opposing the presumption.
Father, absent the presumption, could have made some arguments in his favor. For example, how the classes he had taken in jail and those he planned to take showed a resetting of his moral compass. Also, that he had taken concrete steps to create a different life with different goals.
The case was returned to the trial court for a new unfitness hearing.
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