Whether or not a child’s parents are married, the child often benefits from having both parents involved in his or her life. Many parents are also invested in securing and maintaining a relationship with their child. Unfortunately, for unmarried fathers, such a relationship is not necessarily guaranteed. However, there is a legal process that unmarried fathers can follow to secure the basic rights of parentage, along with an allocated share of parenting time and parental responsibilities in many cases.
Establishing Legal Paternity
Before an unmarried father can ask for parenting time or parental responsibilities, he will need to be recognized as the child’s legal parent. In Illinois, there is more than one way for a man to establish legal paternity. First, along with the child’s mother, he can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) and file it with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Provided that there are no objections or competing claims from other alleged fathers, this is usually the most simple method of securing parental rights.
If a VAP is not possible, perhaps because the mother is not in agreement or there is uncertainty regarding the child’s biological father, a man can petition the court for an adjudication of paternity. As part of this process, the man can submit to genetic testing and present other evidence and testimony to support his claim of fatherhood. If the results of the test show that the man is most likely the child’s father, the court can issue a judicial order of parentage, providing the father with basic rights and an obligation to contribute to child support.
Petitioning for Parenting Time and Parental Responsibilities
It is important to note that neither a VAP nor a judicial order of paternity automatically provides an unmarried father with a share of parental responsibilities or parenting time. Rather, the father or both parents together will need to take an additional step to petition the court regarding these matters. A case of this nature will be handled the same way that the allocation of parental responsibilities is handled during the divorce process. That is, the court will consider an agreement proposed by both parents, or issue a decision after hearing from each parent, all the while keeping the child’s best interests in mind. If the court determines that it will be of benefit to the child for the father to be involved in parenting time and/or decision-making, this will be reflected in the final child custody order.
Contact a Wheaton, IL Paternity Lawyer
As an unmarried father seeking time with your child, it is important that you work with an experienced DuPage County family law attorney. At Davi Law Group, we can help you protect your rights as a father and follow the necessary procedures to establish legal paternity and a court-approved parenting plan. Contact us today for a free consultation at 630-580-6373.