Old stereotypes paint fathers as less interested and less capable of providing the care and attention a child needs to thrive. As a result, when a father seeks to establish rights to see a child following a divorce or paternity suit, some think the mother should receive the bulk of the parenting time, with the father entitled to just a handful of days every month. This dynamic can make it difficult for a father to have a significant relationship with his child, and while courts are moving away from this model of dividing responsibilities, fathers still experience more pushback when seeking equal time.
In Illinois, part of this shift toward more equal parenting is reflected in the elimination of the terms child custody, custodial parent, and visitation to describe parenting structure. This is designed to facilitate an arrangement that emphasizes cooperative parenting over strict lines of accountability and authority. Fathers, in particular, need to understand the system in place that regulates the division of parental responsibility, because this is the best way to ensure their interests are fully represented.
Paternity in Illinois
When paternity is in question, which most frequently occurs when a child’s parents are not married, the purported father has no rights until specific action is taken to establish him as the legal father. Until paternity is determined, the mother, who is always a presumptive legal parent, can legally deny the father access and information about the child, and the father would have no legal recourse.
Paternity can be established voluntarily by both parents or through a court order. If it is established via a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form, this document makes the father financially responsible for the child but does not create an equitable allocation of parenting responsibility. Only a family court judge can legally add this element, even if the parents agree a court’s approval is necessary. When parents are not married, the father is often at a disadvantage in the area of parental rights and the division of responsibilities. Having legal representation by an experienced family law attorney is key to getting the appropriate results.
Divorce in Illinois
Divorce is somewhat different because the husband is the child’s presumed father by virtue of being married to the mother at the time of birth. The father’s right to have access to the child is not in question. The biggest issues facing divorcing fathers is ensuring the amount of parenting time they receive is reflective of the amount of involvement the father needs and wants to keep a strong relationship with the child.
Illinois law does not have a presumption in favor of the mother but does consider who the primary caregiver was in the past. This is part of looking at what is in the best interests of the child. This can involve looking at the wishes of the parents and child, the child’s current environment, the proximity of the parents to one another, work schedules, the ability of the parents to cooperate, and the present relationship between each parent and the child. These are very fact-specific evaluations, and if there is a disagreement between parents, the outcome can be difficult to predict. Because fathers are less commonly a child’s primary caregiver, a court could be persuaded that alternating weekends and some holidays is a fair division. Fathers must be proactive when attempting to assert their rights and need a strong attorney to advocate for their rights.
Speak to a Wheaton, IL Family Law Attorney
Parenting issues are some of the most trying aspects of ending a marriage, and you need the help of a family lawyer to ensure the allocation of responsibilities is fair. The dedicated DuPage County family law attorneys at Andrew Cores Family Law Group understand the battle you may face and are prepared to fight for your parental rights. Contact our office at 630-871-1002 to schedule a free consultation.