This decision of the Illinois Supreme Court defines the concept of due diligence in notifying a parent that there is a case where they can lose parental rights. Attempts at service by mail or personal service is NOT enough!
Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed October 27, 2011
In re Dar. C., 2011 IL 111083
Appellate citation: No. 4-10-0267 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).
CHIEF JUSTICE KILBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Justices Thomas, Garman, and Karmeier concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice Burke specially concurred, with opinion, joined by Justice Freeman.
Justice Theis specially concurred, with opinion.
In this McLean County case, a father whose parental rights had been terminated on March 7, 2008, challenged that result for lack of personal jurisdiction. Under the Code of Civil Procedure, he filed a petition for relief from that judgment, claiming that, under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, it was improper to serve him only by publication in Bloomington after attempts at personal service or service by certified mail were unsuccessful. Statute requires a “diligent inquiry” before a parent may be served by publication. The failed attempts had been based on potential addresses obtained through the use of computerized database searches. The State simply mailed letters but made no visits to the addresses to seek further information. The appellate court affirmed the termination order.
The termination took place in proceedings that began pursuant to 2006 charges that the respondent father’s two minor children, who were living with their mother, were neglected. It was known that the mother was receiving Social Security benefits, but no effort was made to determine their source or to obtain a release of Social Security information. Later that same year, a separate proceeding to collect child support from the father was initiated by a different attorney in the same prosecutor’s office, with the complaint being signed by a caseworker in the termination proceeding. In the collection matter, the father’s birth date, Social Security number and physical description were listed. The State indicated that it had located the respondent at a treatment center in Lake County and obtained his consent for entry of a child support order using the funds from his social security disability benefits.
In this decision, the supreme court said that “the State’s ability to obtain respondent’s contact information in the separate child support action casts significant doubt on the diligence of the State’s inquiry into respondent’s location in the termination proceedings” and that “relying on a computerized database search of a parent’s name while ignoring, or otherwise not investigating, other potentially useful information, does not constitute a diligent inquiry.” These circumstances indicate that there was a lack of personal jurisdiction over the father in attempting to serve him by publication on these facts. The appellate court was reversed and the termination of the father’s rights concerning his children was vacated as void. The cause was remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.