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Illinois Custody and Superior Rights Doctrine

In re Custody of T.W. is an interesting analysis of the superior rights doctrine, and how this doctrine, that substantiates the rights of biological parents, can be trumped by a best interests test.

What do I mean by this? In this case, a child’s mother voluntarily surrendered custody of her child to her parents. The grandparents raised the child, and later, when the grandparents went to court toget cusotdy of the child formally (with the mother’s consent) the father objected. The superior rights doctrine establishes a presumption that a biological parent is the best person to raise a child. However, as in this case, this presumption can be overridden by a finding by the court that the child’s best interest is paramount to the, less than absolute, doctrine of superior rights.

Thus, the superior rights doctrine is not so superior, after all. Should the court find that the child’s best interest is met by being raised by someone other than the biological parent, the court can override the parent’s claim and award to the party meeting the best interests test.

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