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How Can an Unmarried Father Get Custody in Illinois? 

Posted on in Family Law

 illinois parenting lawyerAn unmarried father-to-be may worry that he will have no say in the life or wellbeing of his child. After all, it is the mother who carries the child through pregnancy, and she may feel that if she wants no contact with the father, that is the end of the story. 

Fortunately for fathers, this is simply not true. Illinois law recognizes the importance of fathers and recently updated its laws regarding parental responsibilities and parenting time to reflect the necessity of both parents’ involvement in a child’s life whenever possible. If you are an unmarried father living in Illinois and seeking a relationship with your child, this blog is for you. 

Establish Paternity

Unmarried fathers now have the same rights as mothers - but first, parents have to establish paternity. When a couple is married in Illinois, the mother’s husband is assumed to be the child’s father. However, when a couple is not married, the father will need to prove paternity in order to have parenting rights. There are a few ways to establish paternity: 

  • VAP  - Both parents sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP). This is the easiest and best option if there is no dispute over the child’s paternity. 

  • Genetic Testing - If there is a dispute over paternity, the child must undergo genetic testing to prove parentage. The test does not hurt the child. If the child’s mother is uncooperative, the state can require that the genetic test be done through a court order. 

  • APO - An Administrative Paternity Order (APO) is established and entered by the Illinois Healthcare and Family Services. This route is generally only taken by mothers who are seeking child support payments from a child’s father. 

Seek Parenting Time

After 2019, Illinois stopped using the words “custody” and “visitation” - instead, the terms “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time” are used. “Parental responsibilities” include the right to make major decisions on behalf of a child, such as where they attend school and which religion they will be raised in. “Parenting time” is time spent between parent and child. 

An unmarried father has the right to seek both parental responsibilities and parenting time through a court hearing. Illinois law encourages both parents to be involved in a child’s life whenever possible, and judges will generally give preference to a shared parenting plan. 

Illinois courts consider the wellbeing of a child above all else, so the best way to ensure you are granted parental rights is by doing your best to be a great father. 

Work with a Hinsdale Parental Responsibilities Attorney

At Botti Marinaccio, LTD., we believe that fathers play a crucial role in the lives of their children. Illinois law recognizes this as well. If you are a father seeking parenting time or parental responsibilities for your child, consider working with a qualified Cook County parenting time attorney. We pride ourselves on client service and will create a strategy that takes your preferences into account. Call us today for an initial consultation at 630-575-8585





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Botti Marinaccio, LTD.


2015 Spring Road, Oak Brook, IL 60523

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