Butler Giraudo & Meister
Peoria 309-407-3332
Morton 309-263-1204

Rights of Unmarried Fathers

For a father, maintaining a relationship with his child after the divorce can be difficult. The younger the child, the more weight is given to the mother's role in the child's development. Things are even more difficult for unmarried fathers, who have few parental rights. In the past, it used to be quite easy for the birthmother to prevent the biological father from establishing a legal relationship with his child. Today, however, even unmarried fathers have several means of establishing their rights to the child in front of the law. Declaring paternity refers to legal establishment of the male parentage of a child. Paternity can be established by filing an acknowledgment with the state vital records department.

The acknowledgment has to be signed by both the parents to be valid. If the mother has some objections, the case needs to be brought before the court. There the judge will determine the extent of the father's claims over the child. A blood sample or DNA test will be used to settle the matter, before determining issues regarding visitation and custody. If you and the child's mother were married at the time of the child's birth, you will be declared the father of the child. If you were unmarried but can establish paternity, you can seek custody rights to the child. This will allow you to make decisions with regard to the child's welface and upbringing. Physical custody can also be awarded to the unmarried father just as easily as the mother. In the eyes of the law, both are equal.

If you are the mother are on agreeable terms, you can come up with your own arrangement regarding custody. If the parents, don't agree, the judge will look at many factors to decide custody issues keeping the child's best interests in mind. The decision will be based on a number of factors relating to the kind of life the father leads. This includes his physical and emotional health, stability, relationship with the child and the ability to provide for the child.

Both the parents have the right to have a hand in raising the child. If the father doesn't get primary custody, he can visit the child on a regular basis. In some cases, courts can restrict parental rights. This occurs when there is a history of domestic violence, neglect or abuse on the part of the father. Once the court draws up a custody agreement, it is not possible for the mother to refuse to accept the terms of visitation and custody. In case of resistance, the father can bring the matter up before the court. 

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