In re Dar. C. and Das. C., MinorsAnnotate this Case
Termination proceedings began with 2006 charges that children, living with their mother, were neglected. The mother received Social Security benefits, but no effort was made to determine their source or to obtain a release of Social Security information. Later that year, a proceeding to collect child support from the father was initiated in the same prosecutor's office, with a complaint signed by a caseworker in the termination proceeding. In the collection matter, the father's birth date, Social Security number and description were listed The state located the father at a treatment center and obtained consent to a support order using funds from his disability benefits.The father challenged the termination of parental rights for lack of personal jurisdiction, claiming that, under the Juvenile Court Act, it was improper to serve him only by publication after attempts at personal service or service by certified mail were unsuccessful. The appellate court upheld the order. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, stating that the state’s ability to obtain information in the child support action cast significant doubt on the diligence of inquiry in the termination proceedings and that relying on a computerized database search of a parent's name while ignoring, or not investigating, other potentially useful information, does not constitute a diligent inquiry.
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.