DuPage County child custody lawyerHandling issues of child custody is tricky under the best of circumstances, but unmarried parents can present additional challenges. In the state of Illinois, if you are not married to the other parent of your child, then you must establish paternity if you are a father hoping to get parental rights for a child. A knowledgeable attorney can help you navigate this difficult process. 

Does Signing the Birth Certificate of Your Child Establish Paternity?

If a couple is married and has a baby, the man is assumed to be the child’s legal father. If a couple is unmarried, however, both parents must complete a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form. If one parent cannot or will not sign the VAP, then it will be necessary to try to establish paternity through a court order or through an administrative order from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). 

Who Has Legal Custody of a Child in Illinois?

Creating a parenting plan that includes parental responsibilities (formerly known as custody) and parenting time (formerly known as visitation) can only be done after establishing paternity. One or both parents will need to submit a parenting plan to the family court system to have it approved by a judge and made enforceable in the future. 

A parenting plan should include: 

  • When the child will be with each parent and how the child will be transported between parents’ residences

  • Which parent is responsible for making certain important decisions (or how parents will share the decision-making process)

  • What parents will do if they disagree or want to modify the parenting plan 

  • What parents want to do about the right of first refusal 

  • How each parent accesses the child’s information and records, such as medical records and school grades 

What Factors Are Looked At in a Parental Responsibility Case?

In Illinois, regardless of whether the parents are married or not, the child’s best interests serve as the driving factor in decisions about parenting responsibility and parenting time. Parents are encouraged to create a parenting plan on their own, and indeed, the vast majority of cases never appear before a judge. 

If a case does need to be heard before a judge, the court will take into account many factors as it makes a decision, including: 

  • The capacity of each parent to create a secure and loving environment

  • The child’s relationship with each parent and if the parent can meet the child’s physical, mental, and emotional needs 

  • Whether there is a history of any abuse, neglect, or domestic violence 

  • The parents’ willingness to work together and co-parent effectively

  • The preferences of the child, if age-appropriate 

  • Where and with whom the child has lived in the past and whether the existing arrangement works well for the child 

Contact a Naperville, IL Child Custody Attorney for Help

It can be challenging to navigate parental responsibility and parenting time when you and your ex-partner were never married. Fortunately, the legal system and both parents can work together to ensure the child’s best interests are upheld. If you need help drafting a valid parenting plan or petitioning for parenting time, then the service of a DuPage County, IL child custody attorney will be invaluable to you. Our experienced attorneys at [[title]] can guide you through the entire process. Call us at [[phone]] for a free consultation.

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