Custody issues can be complicated if you and your child’s other parent were never married. Therefore, it is important to work with an experienced attorney who has worked with unmarried parents and child custody in Cook County.

A well-versed child custody attorney with Reidy Law Office LLC can help you better understand what steps you need to take to reach a situation that works for your family. Our team can advocate for your rights and make sure your interests are protected throughout the legal process.

Relevant Laws

The Illinois Parenting Act of 2015 addresses child custody in Illinois when the parents are not married. Under Illinois law, custody and visitation are referred to as the allocation of parental responsibilities. This includes significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time. Parenting time refers to the time the child spends with both parents, while significant decision-making responsibilities include decisions regarding:

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Religion
  • Extracurricular activities

Child Custody Procedure for Unmarried Parents

As stated above, when determining custody, you must follow a specific procedure. Although it is similar for any parent, there are some additional hurdles unmarried parents must overcome.

Paternity Determination

The first major hurdle is establishing paternity. If paternity is not established, the father of the child does not have any legal rights or obligations to the child. Therefore, he would not be entitled to make decisions for the child, spend time with the child, or be obligated to pay child support. In Illinois, paternity can be established with a court Order of Paternity, a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, or an Administrative Paternity Order. Each method of establishing paternity has unique requirements so it is important that you understand how each method works before you start a case.

Parenting Plan

Each parent should file a proposed parenting plan within 120 days of filing a petition for allocation of parental responsibility. If the parents can reach an agreement with one another, they can submit a joint parenting plan. The plan should include how much time the child spends with each parent, who will make significant decisions, and how the parents will handle disputes.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

If parents agree on the allocation of parental responsibilities, the court will generally approve it. However, if they cannot agree, the court will make a decision based on the best interests of the child. Some factors that may be considered are:

  • Wishes of parents
  • Wishes of the child (for older children)
  • History of abuse
  • Mental and physical health of the parents and children
  • How much time each parent spends caring for the children

A parent without decision-making responsibility could still get parenting time unless a judge feels that it is not in the children’s best interests.

A Cook County Attorney Can Help Unmarried Parents with Child Custody

Child custody can be complicated and emotional, especially if you cannot agree with one another. If you are an unmarried parent trying to navigate child custody issues in Cook County, a dedicated attorney can help. Reach out to Reidy Law Office LLC today to get started.