Brief Fact Summary. Appellant had an ongoing relationship with a woman with whom he sired and raised three children. Upon the death of the mother the children were deemed wards of the State under an Illinois law that did not place children in the custody of unwed fathers.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The statute violated appellant’s equal protection under the laws by depriving him of custody of his children when married fathers and unwed mothers could not be deprived of custody without being shown to be unfit parents.
Facts. Joan Stanley lived with Peter Stanley, appellant, intermittently for 18 years, during which time they had three children. Under Illinois law the children of unwed fathers became wards of the State upon death of the mother. When Joan died a dependency proceeding was instituted by the State and appellant’s children were declared wards of the State and placed with court-appointed guardians. Appellant appealed upon the fact that he had never been shown to be an unfit parent and that since married fathers and unwed mothers could not be deprived of their children without such a showing, he had been deprived of the equal protection of laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Issue. Does the Illinois statute violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by distinguishing against and burdening unwed fathers?