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In re A.A.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

October 28, 2014

In re A.A., a Minor
v.
Matthew A., Respondent-Appellant (Caitlin S., Respondent-Appellee)) (The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jefferson County. Nos. 13-JA-54 & 14-F-17. Honorable Timothy R. Neubauer, Judge, presiding.

SYLLABUS

In an action arising from an investigation of the conditions at the residence of a mother with four children and the subsequent placement of the children in the custody of the DCFS, the trial court properly granted the petition filed by the guardian ad litem appointed to represent one of the children seeking to vacate the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity of one child signed by the mother's live-in boyfriend and a declaration that there was no parent-child relationship between the child and the boyfriend, since DNA tests showed that another man, now deceased, was the biological father of the child, and on appeal, the appellate court rejected the boyfriend's contention that the trial court should have applied the best interests of the child standard rather than the clear and convincing evidence standard in making its decision, and the cause was remanded for further proceedings, including consideration of the petition to intervene filed by the parents of the deceased father.

For Appellant: Edwin J. Anderson, L. James Hanson, Attorney at Law, Mt. Vernon, IL.

For Appellees: Hon. Douglas R. Hoffman, State's Attorney, Jefferson County Courthouse, Mt. Vernon, IL; Patrick Delfino, Director, Stephen E. Norris, Deputy Director, Jennifer Camden, Staff Attorney, Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, Mt. Vernon; E. Joyce Randolph, Attorney at Law, Mt. Vernon, IL.

JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Welch and Justice Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

GOLDENHERSH, JUSTICE.

Page 527

[¶1] Matthew A. signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity with regard to the minor, A.A. (d.o.b. April 26, 2013). DNA testing later revealed that Matthew A. is not the biological father of A.A., but that Cort H., who is now deceased, is A.A.'s biological father. A guardian ad litem appointed to represent the interests of A.A. filed a petition to declare the nonexistence of a parent-child relationship between Matthew A. and A.A., which the trial court granted. Matthew A. now appeals from the order of the circuit court of Jefferson County declaring the nonexistence of a parent-child relationship between him and A.A. The issue raised in this appeal is whether the trial court applied the correct standard in evaluating the petition filed by the guardian ad litem and erred in granting the petition to vacate Matthew A.'s parental relationship with A.A. We affirm.

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] The instant case originally began as a petition for adjudication of wardship, No. 13-JA-54, filed by the State following a Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) investigation into the conditions in the house where A.A. was living with his 22-year-old mother, Caitlin S., and her three other children, J.S., A.S., and P.S. Matthew A. was also living at the home and is the biological father of P.S. Matthew A. signed a voluntary acknowledgement of parenthood after the birth of A.A. Jakob S., the former husband of Caitlin S., is the biological father of J.S. and A.S.

[¶4] On June 13, 2013, an agreed temporary custody order was entered, awarding temporary custody of all four children to the guardianship administrator of DCFS. A.A. was only six weeks old at the time. Caitlin S. was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and the State requested DNA testing be ordered to determine if Jakob S. or Matthew A. was the father of P.S.

[¶5] A review hearing was held on September 23, 2013, at which time it was disclosed that a DNA test had also been ordered for A.A. because even though Matthew A. signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, Caitlin S. was unsure of paternity. Caitlin S. acknowledged it was possible that the biological father of A.A. was actually Cort H., who died on August 18, 2013. A DCFS representative testified that collection for DNA testing of A.A. and Matthew A. would be done that day. The representative also advised that DNA testing revealed that Jakob S. was not the father of P.S. At the time of the hearing, J.S. and A.S. were living in one foster home, and P.S. and A.A. were living in another foster home.

[¶6] On November 15, 2013, an adjudicatory hearing was held. Caitlin S. and

Page 528

Matthew A. were represented by the same attorney, and a guardian ad litem appeared on behalf of all four children. DCFS workers testified about troublesome conditions at the house where Caitlin S. resided with her children and Matthew A. The house and children were both filthy and unkempt, and the children, ages five and younger, were left at the home on their own on occasion. Caitlin S. testified, denying most of the allegations.

[¶7] Matthew A. testified that he is the biological father of P.S. He stated that while he originally believed he was the biological father of A.A., " unfortunately, that's not so." He testified, however, that he is willing to accept the ...


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