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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. 

Getting a Same-Sex Divorce in Illinois.

Divorce is the last thing you think about when you and your spouse are exchanging vows. However, for different reasons, divorce happens. When it comes to divorce and child custody cases involving same-sex couples, there are many factors that can complicate the court’s ruling.

Along with the right to marry in Illinois (and every state in America), marriage equality laws also gave couples the right to divorce, regardless of where they live. But, in some cases, the divorce process can become complex.

Because same-sex marriage hasn’t been legal for too long, courts have broad discretion when making decisions about relationships that were in place long before the Supreme Court’s landmark decision. One of the biggest issues same-sex couples run into when they get divorced is determining how to award spousal and child support if the couple was living together as domestic partners much longer than their legal marriage. Same-sex couples often see one spouse adopt children and then they live as a family, without the benefit of a joint- or cross- or co-adoption.  That could spell disaster for the non-adopting parent.

Parental Responsibilities

Parental responsibilities are different for someone married to a child’s birth mother. The law spells out how the birth mother’s spouse can be the legal parent of the child. For two married men, adoption is often the route to parentage, for married women, the female who did not give birth also usually adopts the child/children.

Since 2016, instead of dividing up “custody” and “visitation,” divorcing parents make an “allocation of parental responsibilities.” Under the revised Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, only non-parents get visitation.

You must be a parent to have any parental responsibilities. Who’s a parent is determined by the Illinois Parentage Act. The Parentage Act spells out 4 ways the spouse of the birth mother can be legally presumed to be the child’s parent. The law below applies to both marriages and civil unions. It also applies to a male or female spouse of the birth mother. The four paths to parenthood are:

  1. The child is born while the spouses are married to each other.
  2. The child is born after the marriage is over. It must be within 300 days after that termination.
  3. The first 2 situations, but where the couple tried to enter into a marriage or civil union “in apparent compliance with the law.” However, that marriage or union is later terminated or declared invalid for some reason.
  4. A person marries the birth mother after the child is born. Plus, that person consents to being added to the child’s birth certificate.

Parenthood for two married men results from one being the child’s biological father, and the other adopting the child,. Or, it results from both spouses adopting a child together.

Same-Sex Divorce Procedure

Generally – asides from the issue of Child Custody (Parenting Time) – the divorce process for same-sex couples is not different compared to a divorce involving a heterosexual couple.

  1. File the Petition for ‘Dissolution of Marriage’. To properly file in Illinois, one or both parties must establish residency within the state for at least 90 days before commencement of the case. The petition must state whether the divorce action is sought on fault or no-fault grounds. (Contested or Uncontested).
  2. Serve the complaint on the other spouse.
  3. The other spouse files an answer to the petition or risks a default judgment from the court.
  4. The investigation and negotiation stage occurs, where the couple’s attorneys gather relevant evidence and prepare for a court appearance. The couple may also work toward a mutually-agreeable settlement through divorce mediation.
  5. A trial commences if no settlement is reached. At this stage, the divorce is granted, and the court determines issues like custody, child support, spousal maintenance and the division of the couple’s property.

Hiring the Right Experienced Same-Sex Divorce Attorney

If you are going through a same-sex divorce, you probably have many questions about the process.

By hiring a knowledgeable and experienced divorce attorney – who understands the unique challenges same-sex couples face – will ensure that your interests are protected during the dissolution of your marriage. How? Since it is possible to encounter judges or other court personnel who may have had limited interactions with same-sex divorces or same-sex individuals in general, it is important to have an attorney who is not only sensitive to the dynamic, but one who is well known by the Court and knowledgeable of the various laws.

Masters Law Group understands that divorce is a stressful situation and that our clients want to move on with their lives. As such, we move through settlement negotiations, mediation or litigation with our clients assurance and well being in mind.

Whether you are facing a same-sex contested divorce, uncontested divorce, or civil union divorce, our firm’s attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when you need it most.

Divorce cases involving substantial assets or complex estates require specialized knowledge.  Masters Law Group is skilled at identifying and valuing assets and wealth, including real estate, securities, business interests, retirement funds, pension plans, tax shelters (domestic and foreign), overseas accounts, stock options, trusts and other actual or potential sources of wealth.

Don’t go it alone. Contact us here today to schedule a consultation.