In Illinois and America in general, the legal system has a tarnished history of awarding child custodial rights to mothers more than to fathers. In the past, a legal principle known as the “tender years doctrine” assumed that, especially during a child’s youngest years, the mother should automatically have custody. As a result, it has often proved difficult for fathers to get full custody of their children, even when the mother’s caregiving capabilities are compromised.
Fortunately, courts and society at large have gotten much better at recognizing how important of a role fathers play in the nurturing and well-being of their children. The “tender years” doctrine has been replaced by the “best interests of the child” doctrine when deciding which parent should have custody. Social research supports the idea that a child’s interests are best served when both parents are involved in his or her life.
Unmarried Fathers Must Establish Parentage
Fathers still face unique challenges in obtaining full or partial parental responsibility for a child, and this is especially true when a father is not married to a child’s mother. Of course, establishing who is the biological mother of a child is easy to do. And when fathers are married, they are legally assumed to be the father of a child.
However, when the parents of a child are unmarried, the father must establish his parentage in order to receive any custody or visitation rights at all. The easiest way to do this is by using a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. A VAP form must be signed by both parents, so if the mother disputes the fact that you are the father of the child, you will need to take further action.
If necessary, genetic testing will use your and your child’s genes in order to establish your parentage. In fact, an Illinois court can order you to provide a DNA test, whether you want to or not; in many instances, if you refuse to participate in the court-ordered DNA proceeding, you may be automatically judged to be the father. A DNA test does not hurt your child.
What Happens Once I Have Established I Am the Father?
The judge overseeing your case will make custody decisions using the aforementioned “best interests of the child” doctrine. Even if the mother of the child objects to your involvement in the child’s life, if the judge decides the child would benefit from your involvement, the custody decision will be made accordingly.
In our next blog, we will look at some of the things you can do to help increase your likelihood of getting awarded full or partial custody–or, as it is now known in Illinois, parental responsibilities.
Consult with a Wheaton, IL Father’s Rights Attorney Today
Fathers play an irreplaceable role in the well-being of their child. If you are a new father looking for help, or you are already a father who wants to increase your role in your child’s life, an attorney with Andrew Cores Family Law Group can help you protect your rights. Schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled DuPage County family lawyers. Call our office today at 630-871-1002.