The term “parental rights” can be confusing. Many parents assume that their parental rights are automatically granted to them when they have a child. While this is somewhat true, it is important to understand how and when parents’ legal rights are granted or revoked under Illinois law.

How Do Parents Gain Parental Rights?

Mothers are considered the legal parent of a child when they give birth. Fathers can gain parental rights by establishing paternity. Paternity is assumed for married parents, meaning the husband of a woman who gives birth to a new baby is automatically considered the child’s legal parent. Signing a document called a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) is the most popular method of establishing paternity when unmarried parents both agree on who the child’s father is.

Parents can also establish paternity through an administrative process with the Department of Child and Family Services or a judicial process with the court.

When Does a Parent Have a Right to Visitation or Parenting Time?

Establishing paternity or parentage does not automatically grant a parent the right to visitation, or as it is called in Illinois, parenting time. However, establishing parentage is the first step in a parent getting court-ordered visitation.

Unmarried parents can petition the court for a parenting time order that gives them the right to spend time with their child. The court will allocate parenting time based on what is in the child’s best interests. Generally, the court assumes it is best for the child to spend time with both parents, but this assumption can be overcome with sufficient evidence.

Does the Court Ever Restrict or Eliminate a Parent’s Parenting Time?

If the court finds that spending time with a parent would endanger the child’s physical, mental, or moral well-being, the court may restrict parenting time. The court may require a third-party individual to supervise the parent’s parenting time, reduce the amount of parenting time the parent has, or, in rare cases, eliminate parenting time altogether.

The court may also require a parent to complete a substance abuse program or undergo counseling before he or she can enjoy unrestricted parenting time.

Can a Parent Lose His or Her Parental Rights?

Parents can voluntarily give up their parental rights in certain situations. This usually occurs in the context of an adoption case. A parent’s parental rights may also be revoked against his or her will. However, the court will only do this if absolutely necessary, and usually only if there is another parent, such as a stepparent, who is willing to adopt the child.

Contact our Kane County Parental Rights Lawyer

Our Kane County family law attorneys can help you navigate legal disputes regarding parenting time, parental responsibilities, child custody, paternity, and other family law matters. Call 630-665-7300 and set up a private consultation.