Parental Rights for Unmarried Fathers: A Guide to Illinois Law

Parental rights for unmarried fathers are sometimes difficult without an experienced father’s rights attorney. Are you an unmarried father who is seeking child custody or child visitation rights in Illinois? If so, it is crucial you understand state law. In Illinois, unmarried fathers have the same equal rights as mothers — but only when they establish paternity. Below, our Naperville and Bolingbrook fathers’ rights attorneys provide a more in-depth overview of the parental rights of unmarried dads in Illinois.

Parentage is the Basis of Fathers’ Rights in Illinois

Parentage is a recognized legal relationship between a mother/father and a child. For biological mothers, establishing parentage is obviously very straightforward. For married fathers, it is also not difficult to prove parentage. When a man’s wife gives birth in Illinois, he is automatically assumed to be the child’s legal father — meaning no further action is needed. However, unmarried dads face some challenges. As an unwed father, you need to prove paternity to obtain the parental rights you are entitled to.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, you have a couple of options available. The easiest is through a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form. If there is no dispute over parentage, paternity can be established through a VAP. To be clear, this form must be signed by both the father and the mother. If there is a disagreement over parentage, you will be required to take additional steps to prove paternity. In most cases, this requires seeking genetic testing — either voluntarily or with a court order.

The bottom line: Without legally recognized paternity, unmarried fathers cannot access parental rights. Proving paternity is also a first step.

Unwed Fathers Have Equal Rights: Can Seek Parenting Time and Parental Responsibilities

Once paternity is established, Illinois law requires courts to treat parents in a ‘gender-neutral’ manner. Put another way, courts cannot grant greater rights to the mother simply because she is the mother. Unmarried fathers have just as much right to seek custody or visitation rights. It should be noted that Illinois no longer uses the terms “custody” or “visitation” in official family law proceedings. Instead, the concepts fall under the terms: parental responsibilities and parenting time. Although the terms have changed, the law is relatively similar.

Illinois courts strongly favor awarding some form of joint parental responsibilities and shared parenting time. Though, the specific circumstances of the case always matter. Illinois law requires courts to put the best interests of the child above all considerations. For unmarried fathers, the best way to assert and protect your parental rights is to present a strong case that you can provide a happy and healthy environment for your child.

Call Our Illinois Fathers’ Rights Lawyers for Legal Guidance

At Keller Legal Services, our Illinois family law attorneys have the knowledge, skills, and experience to advocate for the rights of unmarried fathers. Our lawyers are reliable representatives for dads. If you need legal support, we are ready to help. Contact us now for a completely confidential initial family law consultation. With legal offices in Naperville, Bolingbrook, and Aurora, we represent fathers throughout Illinois.