A man and a woman who are not married at the time their child is born have unique rights and responsibilities under Illinois law. In contrast to married fathers, for example, an unwed new father is not automatically assumed to be the child’s biological dad. Both he and the child’s mother may want to have paternity established so as to lay the legal foundation for a father-child relationship.

If you are an unwed parent with a child custody issue in Frankfort, consider contacting an experienced lawyer. A knowledgeable attorney from Reidy Law Office LLC can help ensure that your child is able to spend quality time with and receive the financial support of both parents.

Establishing Parentage

State law presumes that an unmarried mother is entitled to both physical and legal custody of a child from birth as there is no question over whether she is the child’s biological parent. However, until paternity can be established, the mother may be unable to seek child support from the child’s other parent.

Causes of action for establishing parentage are governed by the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984 (750 ILCS 45/1, et seq.). When a child is born outside of wedlock, the identity of this child’s father can be legally established in the following ways.

Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity

The most common way paternity is established is for both parents to sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity (VAP) form, which can be provided to them very soon after the mother gives birth. This form is usually completed at the hospital when the child is born. However, it is important to understand the potential consequences of signing before completing a VAP form. Specifically, signing a VAP creates the responsibility of providing support for the child; however, it does not establish any rights of a father.

Paternity Suit

A paternity suit to formally establish a father-child relationship can be initiated by the mother, the child, anyone claiming that he is the child’s father. A judge has the authority to order the presumptive father to submit to DNA testing. The statute of limitations for filing a paternity suit in Illinois is two years after a child reaches the age of 18.

Unmarried Parents and Child Custody

Assuming that paternity has been established either by mutual consent of the parents or court order, the father will then have the ability to petition the court with respect to child custody or visitation. If the father and mother cannot formulate a parenting agreement either on their own or through mediation, a judge may intervene and issue a ruling that aligns with the best interests of the child.

Although unmarried, the courts will apply the same laws for cases involving married parents. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) provides a variety of factors for judges to consider when making child custody determinations. Those include:

  • The wishes of the parents
  • The wishes of the child (if old enough)
  • The mental and physical health of the child and the parents
  • The relationship and interaction between either parent and the child
  • Whether any abuse has occurred

Determining the best interests of your child is a very fact-specific inquiry with judges having wide latitude to issue custody orders they feel meet that standard.

Contact a Frankfort Unmarried Parents and Child Custody Attorney

A couple that is unmarried at the time they have a child can face unique legal hurdles. Paternity will, for example, have to be established before determinations regarding child custody and child support can be made. An attorney can help unmarried parents in Frankfort resolve any child custody issues. Call today.