Civil Unions and Unmarried Parents – Illinois Child Custody & Support
Attorneys helping you protect your parental rights in Cook, Lake and DuPage County
Unmarried parents and those in a civil union often assume that they have the same rights as married parents. While in many ways this is true, there are important differences that need to be recognized. Attorneys at M. Scott Gordon & Associates can help you understand your rights and responsibilities.
One of the most important distinctions is that unmarried parents seriously should consider having a court case in Illinois, even if the parties are living together as a family unit. Why? One reason is that it is important for the father of the child to establish properly his paternity of that child. This can be accomplished in Illinois by merely completing the state’s Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form. Many couples complete this form at the hospital when the child is born so the father can be listed on the child’s birth certificate.
However, it is important to establish that the family is living together as a unit to prevent problems. For example, when a family unit dissolves, and the parents are not married, one of them can take the child and move to another location. At that point, the other parent has no officially outlined rights about the child. Of course, the other parent has rights, but if there has never been a court case, that parent would need to start at the beginning and go to court to enforce his or her rights, such as child support or parenting time. If there was already a case on file with the court, it is much easier and quicker to establish temporary and long-term rights for each parent after the breakup of the family unit. Unfortunately, we have seen far too many examples of a parent who suddenly leaves the family home with the child and refuses to allow the other parent to see that child. The other parent usually calls the police and is informed that, if there is no court order, a judge must determine each parent’s rights and responsibilities. This inevitably creates a crisis situation, which is in nobody’s interest.
An important aspect of the Illinois Parentage Act of 2015 is that it allows a parent with possession of a child to claim child support back until the date the child was born. However, if the parties were living together as a family unit, it would not be appropriate to award child support for those time periods. By filing a case in court when the family is living together as a unit, not only establishes each party’s rights with respect to the child but also becomes a record that the family is living together as a unit. We have seen many cases in which the question of back child support becomes hotly contested, and the question is often if the parties were living together as a family unit during certain time periods.
Another important aspect of the law is that both the father and mother have the right to challenge if the father is, in fact, the natural father of the child. However, many people do not realize that this right is limited because once paternity is established, either by the court and/or acknowledged (agreed to) by the parties, it is very difficult to “undo” this determination. A DNA test can easily determine paternity, but you cannot simply request a DNA test at any time. Once parties agree in court (or at the hospital on a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity) that the man is the father of the child, the court accepts this acknowledgment of paternity, and the father no longer has the absolute right to demand a DNA test. The lesson to be learned is that if either party has any doubts about paternity, a DNA test should be insisted upon. Before paternity is established, either party has the right to insist on the DNA test, but after paternity has been initially acknowledged, both parties must agree to the test.
Let our child custody attorneys help you determine what’s best for your family
For more information, email the family law attorneys of M. Scott Gordon & Associates or call our Chicago office at 312.360.0250 or our Skokie office at 847.329.0101for help with your case.