Societal expectations for unmarried dads in Illinois are sadly not very high, which may influence how successful they are at securing time with their children. But regardless of marital status, men who were never married to their children’s mothers can still seek visitation and even child custody. However, this means that they must be vigilant in asserting their fathers’ rights.
The first step to securing time with a child is to establish paternity. This is sometimes done shortly after a child is born, when both parents sign an acknowledgement for paternity. This may also be done some time after the birth. When paternity is disputed, a father can turn to the court system to formally establish paternity, typically by getting a court order for DNA testing.
In some cases, parents can work out a visitation schedule or custody agreement on their own. These still have to be submitted to a judge for approval. Parents who agree on a parenting schedule should not skip over this step, as dads will have a harder time asserting their rights should the child’s mom want to change arrangements.
Dads can also petition for custody and visitation. This involves asking the court to hold a contested hearing to grant the requested arrangements. The priority during this hearing is not necessarily the father’s petition, but whether that petition is in the best interests of his child. In general, family law courts think that kids do better when both parents are actively involved.
Illinois family law may feel like it defaults to moms, but dads have rights as well. Fathers’ rights protect a man’s ability to see and parent his child. But since so much is on the line, having the right help to assert those rights is generally advisable.