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Protecting the Rights of Unmarried Fathers

 Posted on July 26, 2017 in Paternity

Lombard family law attorneyToday, more and more couples are choosing to forgo marriage for a variety of reasons. Some are political, others economic, and still others simply out of lack of interest in legally validating the relationship. However, there are some areas of the law in which not being married can actually be a hardship, and the paternity of your children is among the most pressing. If you are not married to your child’s mother, it is imperative that you be aware of your rights going forward, especially if you want to be involved in your child’s life.

Establishing Paternity in Illinois

Illinois law defines paternity and the father-child relationship fairly extensively, and it is important to understand how to proceed. The Illinois Parentage Act lays out a list of methods by which a man’s paternity may be acknowledged and legally verified. Generally, paternity is established in Illinois when:

  • You are married to the child’s natural mother during conception, gestation, or birth unless the mother is a signatory to a valid surrogacy contract;
  • If your marriage ends within 300 days of the child’s birth, due to death, divorce, invalidity or any other method that applies to a marriage entered into in good faith;
  • You complete a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) form and your name is entered on the child’s birth certificate; or
  • You participate in the entry of a court order naming you as the child’s legal father.

Establishing paternity is only the first step for an unmarried father, however. The presumption of the court is still that most couples marry, and if a couple does not, no rights are automatically granted to the father, as the implication is that such rights are achieved by marrying the child’s mother. If an unmarried father wishes to play a role in his child’s life, he must file the appropriate paperwork to get permission to do so and prove that such a role would be in the child’s best interests.

Taking Action

Filing a request for parenting time is a matter of submitting the right paperwork with your relevant information, including income, employment, and criminal records, if any. The proceeding itself may become complex, however, because of the standard the court must employ in adjudicating the request—namely, the best interests of the child. In other words, if a court comes to the determination that your influence would do more harm than good in terms of your child’s development, your petition for parenting time may be denied.

Courts have a fairly extensive list of factors that must be entertained in weighing a petition for parenting time, and any one of them may prove the tipping point. Some of the considerations a judge will take into account include:

  • The wishes of both parents, and those of the child if he or she is old enough to comprehend the situation;
  • Any existing relationship between the child and each parent;
  • Practical factors such as travel time or relocation and their potential effect on the child’s well-being; and
  • The degree to which the parents are willing to work together and compromise in order to achieve the best results for all involved.
  • There are many others, however, and once a decision has been made, it may not be appealed unless there is an allegation of significant error.

Contact a Family Lawyer

If you are an unmarried father and you wish to take steps toward securing additional rights regarding your child, contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney. At A. Traub & Associates, we are committed to helping fathers build meaningful, lifelong relationships with their children. Call 630-426-0196 today.



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