Stanley v. Illinois

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Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645 (1972), is a U.S. Supreme Court case focusing on the rights of unwed parents. The court held that:

"It is plain that the interest of a parent in the companionship, care, custody, and management of his or her children 'comes to this Court with a momentum for respect lacking when appeal is made to liberties which derive merely from shifting economic arrangements'"[1]

Background: The case involved a couple who had lived together off and on for 18 years, and who had 3 biological children. When the mother of the children died, the State took custody of the 3 children based on an Illinois law that defined children of deceased unwed mothers as State charges, despite the fact that the father of the three was still alive.

Finding: The Court found that the Illinois law was unconstitutional since it placed undue burden upon the biological father to prove he was the most fit adult to be the guardian of the children, rather than simply defining his role as legal guardian of his own children.


  1. 405 U.S. at 651 (citation omitted).