Tag Archive for: father’s rights

Father’s Rights in Illinois

Father’s Day is a special time to celebrate the men who have given so much to their families. But it’s also the perfect opportunity to reflect on fatherhood in America. Here at Masters Law Group, we want to take this opportunity to remind fathers their rights are equally important; to you, to your child/children, and to the law. 

If you are the father, you may worry about what your parental rights are under Illinois law. Unmarried or divorcing fathers are often especially concerned about their parental rights and responsibilities.  According to the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984, the state recognizes “the right of every child to the physical, mental, emotional and monetary support of his or her parents.” The law provides that “the parent and child relationship, including support obligations, extends equally to every child and to every parent, regardless of the marital status of the parents.”

Before paternity is established, the current system has mothers as primary caregivers by default, even though we know that most dads want equal time with their kids. If you’re one of those dads, or know someone who hasn’t been treated fairly, here’s what you should know to help ensure that your rights as a father are protected.

The Importance of a Father in a Child’s Life

It is no secret that mothers and children share a special bond. Mothers are viewed as the most important person in a child’s life, being their capable caregivers, caring supporters, and strong providers. While there is no doubt that mothers play a vital role in children’s lives, it is also important to know about the importance of fathers or father figures in children’s lives. 

Studies have shown that children who have involved and supportive fathers tend to do better academically while also having an easier time with their language and social development. Fathers can also act as capable caregivers, loving nurturers, and effective disciplinarians for children.

Because of these findings, it is essential for both parents to be involved in their child’s life. It is important for both parents to spend quality time together with their children so they can share experiences together as well as develop meaningful relationships with one another.

Establishing Paternity in Illinois

If you are a father who wants to establish your parental rights, one of the first steps you need to take is to establish paternity, also known as “parentage”.

In Illinois, all children have a right to the mental, physical, monetary, and emotional support of their parents. Additionally, Illinois law states that both children and parents have a right to a relationship with one another—whether or not they are married. Married parents have an easier time establishing paternity than unmarried ones do: married couples can simply marry after the child is born in order to establish paternity, while unmarried couples must take additional steps.

There are four processes parents can follow in order to establish paternity: 

  • Marrying after the child is born
  • Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity 
  • Paternity action brought before the court
  • Paternity order issued by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ Child Support Services.

The easiest way to establish paternity is by signing a VAP form. When families go to the hospital or medical facility to have their baby, the staff provides them with this form if the couple is unmarried. Both parents should read the form, ensure they understand it, and then sign and date it before a witness (someone 18 years or older). Once this form is completed, the father’s name appears on the child’s birth certificate before the family leaves the hospital.

When both parents sign a VAP form, they are agreeing that the male listed on the form is the child’s legal and biological father. This form also waives both couples’ right to genetic testing for themselves and the child. Both parents are acknowledging that they will provide financial support and medical care for the child. While signing this document provides all of these rights, it does not give either parent any right to custody or visitation – parents need to take any custody issues they have through the family court system in Illinois.

Father’s Rights to Custody and Visitation

In Illinois, child custody and visitation are called the “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act states that all parents have a right to enjoy “reasonable” parenting time unless there is a good reason for the parent to be denied access to his or her child. If the court holds a hearing and finds that granting parenting time “would seriously endanger the child’s mental, moral, or physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development,” the parent may not be allowed to spend time with his or her child unsupervised. Unless you have a history of domestic violence or previous convictions for violent crime, or if there is another reason for the court to restrict your parenting time, you have a legal right to spend time with your child.

In cases where parents have gone to court to determine Illinois child custody and visitation, the judge overseeing the case uses the “best interests of the child” standard in order to guide his or her decision making. This means the judge only considers a decision that benefits the child involved regardless of the parents’ other group’s wishes.

The judge deciding the case looks at a number of different factors when choosing the best possible custody decision for the child. Some of those factors include, but are not limited to:

  • The relationship between each parent and their children
  • How well each parent is able to care for their children
  • The age of each child involved in this case
  • The mental health status of each parent involved in this case (if either party is suffering from some sort of mental illness or addiction)

Should fathers be granted primary custody, they have the same right to seek child support as mothers would in the same situation. Should fathers have difficulty collecting the ordered child support, there are a number of resources to use in order to collect those payments. For the state of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is solely dedicated to providing child support services based on both state and federal laws.

Final Thoughts

Fathers often feel as though they are at a disadvantage when it comes to child custody and support. This can make it difficult for fathers who want to fight for their rights in a paternity case, child custody case or child support case. As attorneys experienced in father’s rights, we can help guide you through this process by explaining your options and help you understand what steps you need to take to ensure your rights are protected under the law. 

We can also assist you in gaining the time with your children that you deserve while providing valuable assistance when it comes to paying child support and other expenses associated with raising a child. 

For more information on Father’s Rights, Parenting Time, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, Child Support and more, visit our website to talk to our experienced attorneys. 

Parentage Rights for Same-Sex Couples

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.