Category: Family Law
Child custody cases can be challenging to sort out, especially if you have never been married to your child’s father. Illinois has legal protections, but there can be nuances for keeping these protections and ensuring a peaceful life for you and your children.
The O. Long Law, LLC team is dedicated to educating mothers about their rights guaranteed by law and helping them argue and win their cases in court if needed. Our attorneys will work closely with you to learn the specifics of your case and then find the best route to achieve what’s best for you.
Regarding parental rights and custody, Illinois courts do not grant rights based on the gender of the parents. However, circumstances can adjust how those rights are granted, such as whether the biological father is known or not.
A mother whose child lives with her is granted sole parental responsibility for her child when the father is unknown or completely absent. According to Illinois law, she will have full legal and physical custody of her child until paternity is established.
She’ll control significant decisions in her child’s life, like schooling, medical procedures, religious choices, and where they will live. This differs from “primary custody,” where another party will get a say in the child’s life, but the other party will still make any final decisions.
A mother with sole custody will make decisions about who can visit their child. Illinois courts require that paternity is established before entering any orders providing for a parenting plan or visitation rights for a father.
Paternity is a means to identify the legal father of a child. Without it, the mother will retain sole custody of a child who lives with her. A father must have established paternity to have a say in any shared children’s rights, which can be done in a few ways.
If the father is married to the mother, the law assumes he’s the father. If the couple legally separates within 300 days of the child’s birth, the law will still assume the ex-partner is the child’s father. If someone is listed on the child’s birth certificate, he is considered the child’s father and is presumed to have equal parental rights.
The father may voluntarily acknowledge he is the child’s father, using a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form filed with the Department of Health and Family Services. It can be filled out any time before the child turns 20 years old and can be contested within 60 days of filing.
If the father wants to contest it after those 60 days, he’ll need to file a motion to vacate the VAP in his local court.
Child Support Services can submit an Administrative Paternity Order to establish paternity to enforce child support plans.
Finally, a paternity case can be filed with the court to prove who the father is, which often entails more motions and hearings after one party files against the other. Courts often rely on paternity tests, which are generally 99.9% effective at matching DNA between the parents and children.
Sometimes, a man may be suing to be identified as a child’s father, perhaps to secure visiting rights or custodial responsibilities. If the matter has been taken to court, a mother can refuse a court-ordered DNA test of her child. However, this will likely result in a decision against her, meaning the court will award the father custodial rights.
If paternity has been established for your child’s father, it will affect your rights as a mother. Instead of having sole parental responsibilities, a court will likely weigh whether splitting parental responsibilities is in your child’s best interests.
An established father is presumed to have an equal say in a child’s upbringing unless they forfeit those rights, or unless it is not in the child’s best interest for them to have an equal say. Under Illinois law, it’s assumed both parties are fit to make decisions and care for shared children unless it isn’t in the child’s best interest. A mother can ask for child support payments, which the courts can enforce.
Navigating these nuances may seem simple but having an attorney with family law experience is critical to ensure the best outcome for you and your children.
When it comes to child custody and responsibilities, parents of any gender will share rights. Each parent will have a say in the child’s upbringing unless the court finds them to be unfit.
If divorced parents can’t agree on a shared parenting plan, the court will likely decide on a plan with the child’s best interest at heart. That means a divorced mother must make the best argument regarding her child’s care to the court, and also establish why the children’s other parent should not get to have what they have asked for.
The court will consider the child’s wishes (weighed against their maturity and age), the relationship between the child and parents; the distance between the parents’ residences; and how much time each parent spent caring for the child before the divorce.
Child custody can be a tricky business. With many factors affecting who can make decisions regarding your child’s upbringing and wellbeing, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially without an Illinois family lawyer.
The O. Long Law, LLC team is ready to answer your questions and argue your case, whether you believe you should have sole custody of your child, or the child’s father should cover his share of parental responsibilities.