Fortunately for married same-sex couples in Illinois who have children, the Illinois Parentage Act provides the same protections that were once afforded to fathers in a heterosexual marriage. Here’s what you need to know.
Parents are legally recognized in three ways: through marriage, adoption, and DNA. While same-sex couples may now legally marry throughout the United States, not all states have provided an equal opportunity for gay parents to obtain parental rights, whether through biology, legally recognized partnership, adoption, or other means.
What is Parentage?
In parentage cases, also called “paternity cases,” the court makes orders that say who the child’s legal parents are.
If parents are married when a child is born, there is usually no question about parentage. The law assumes that the husband is the father and the wife is the mother, so paternity is automatically established in most cases.
But for unmarried parents, parentage of their children needs to be established legally. If there is not an agreement on paternity of a child, the Court can order a DNA test to determine the father. After paternity is established, allocation of parental responsibilities, parenting time and child support can then be set forth via a Final Allocation of Parental Responsibilities Judgment.
Presumption of Parentage under the Illinois Parentage Act
What is a presumption of paternity under Illinois law, and how does it establish the rights and responsibilities of a parent? Generally speaking, a presumption of paternity refers to situations in which the law says that a person is the child’s presumed parent—typically the father. Matters of paternity—and the presumption of paternity—are governed by the Illinois Parentage Act of 2015 (750 ILCS 46/). That statute defines a “presumed parent” as “an individual who . . . is recognized as the parent of a child until that status is rebutted or confirmed in a judicial or administrative proceeding.”
A presumption of paternity typically happens in cases where there is no direct evidence that the parent is the child’s biological parent, but there are other ways in which that person is presumed to be the parent (and therefore responsible for providing care and support to the child). Situations in which there is a presumption of paternity may include:
- Individual (presumed parent) married the child’s biological mother or otherwise started a relationship with the child’s biological mother, and the child was born during the relationship;
- Individual and the child’s biological mother got married, and the child was born within 300 days of the end of the marriage;
- Individual and the child’s biological mother got married, but the marriage was determined to be invalid, and the child was born within 300 days of the declaration of invalidity of the marriage; or
- Individual married the child’s biological mother or otherwise started a relationship with the child’s biological mother after the child was born, but the individual is listed (by choice) as the parent on the child’s birth certificate.
Since a presumption means only that parentage is presumed, there are ways either to provide evidence of paternity or to dispute paternity. Presumptions of paternity can be disputed, for example, with DNA evidence and other forms of documentation.
How the Presumption of Paternity Extends to Same-Sex Couples
The Illinois Parentage Act also extends to same-sex couples, including when it comes to the presumption of parentage. Same-sex parents are now also permitted to have both their names on a birth certificate, and there is a presumption that the parents listed on a birth certificate are the child’s parents.
This legal presumption is important when it comes to parenting time issues in a divorce or legal separation. Without this presumption, a parent who wants child custody would have to prove a legal relationship with the child in order to have standing to seek custody. A person who does not have standing cannot prevail in a legal challenge seeking rights to custody or even visitation.
Once parentage has established under any of the criteria set forth in the statute, the parent can be allocated parental responsibility, parenting time, and even be required to pay child support. Like heterosexual couples, the court determines the issues of time-sharing and parental responsibility by considering the best interests of the child. However, if the child is born as part of a surrogacy agreement, there are laws that govern how that situation would be handled.
Lastly, men in a same-sex marriage may still be at a disadvantage even under the revised law because the law does not create a presumption for either man having a child with a woman outside the marriage. Both men would have to adopt the child to gain legal rights.
Contact Masters Law Group
As you can see, same-sex parents can face legal hurdles when determining their parental rights. Illinois parental laws do not discriminate between same-sex and opposite-sex parents; However, some judges may have limited experience with LGBTQ relationships. The attorneys at Masters Law Group use their years of experience and relationships with the local courts to prevent issues and focus on solving problems and achieving the best possible result for our clients.
Each year in the Illinois, thousands of families seek answers to questions regarding divorce, separation, allocation of parental responsibilities, support and other matters of family law. If you have questions about how the Illinois Parentage Act applies to you, contact the experienced attorneys at Masters Law Group here today.