custody laws for unmarried parents in collinsville illinois

Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents

Child custody laws in Illinois are pretty straightforward, but things can get a bit complicated if a child’s parents are unmarried. When parents are not wed, there is no automatic assumption of paternity, so the parentage must first be established before the unmarried father to be granted certain parental rights and to be held legally obligated to support the child.

First Things First: Establishing Paternity

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In Illinois, paternity outside of marriage can be established in one of two ways. Parents can complete a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP), or the court can establish paternity through a DNA test. When the latter occurs, a judicial Order of Paternity or Administrative Paternity Order is entered into the record. Neither of these will guarantee visitation or custody, but paternity must be established for a legal custody order to be granted.

When the Judgment of Parentage is made, child custody is sometimes allocated alongside child support responsibilities. This can include parenting time privileges and assignment of parental responsibilities and guardianship. When the judgment does not include these additional directives, then all parental responsibilities are presumed to lie on the mother, provided the child has not lived with the father for six months or longer prior to the mother filing for a Judgement of Parentage.

 Parental Responsibility and Parenting Time Laws

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Once paternity is established, a parent who wishes to make decisions for or spend time with the child needs to file a Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibility. This will establish the parenting time that each parent will have going forward. Typically, a child will live primarily with one parent and see the other regularly. The court, in most instances, will establish a specific schedule for when each parent will have physical custody of the child. A proposed parenting plan submitted by each parent or jointly if they are in agreement is required.

If parents can come to an amicable agreement, judges typically approve the allocation of parental responsibilities. If parents can’t agree on the specifics of who will keep the child, when each parent will keep the child, and other issues related to their parenting plans, then the courts make a decision based on what they deem to be the best interests of the child.

Custody laws for unmarried parents can be complex. Reach out to a qualified Collinsville, Illinois, family law attorney for help with child custody issues.