Defending and Asserting Fathers’ Rights in the Chicago Area
Northbrook Family Law Attorneys
Chicago and Northbrook attorneys help legal and non-legal dads get custody
Married or not, men have certain rights when it comes to caring for or otherwise gaining access to children they have sired or raised. The Law Offices of Michael P. Doman helps legal and non-legal fathers assert their rights when the birth mother or state denies them.
If you are the legal father
You are the legal father if you have contributed to the child’s creation biologically or have legally adopted the child, either jointly or as a stepparent or co-parent (also called a second-parent adoption).
If you are the biological dad, but this is not documented on the birth certificate because you are not married to the mother, you will need to establish your paternity to pursue your right to custody and access. If the birth mother will not agree to recognize your paternity by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VPA), your lawyer will have to establish your rights as the legal father in court using DNA tests and other evidence.
If you are not married, the legal mother’s rights trump yours
Just as an unwed father has the right to prove his paternity, the unwed birth mother has rights, too. She has the right to the custody, care and control of the child she has birthed, and those rights remain hers unless she is unfit to fulfill her parental responsibilities. Even if she signs a VPA, the document will probably seek to confirm her right to custody.
The main point to note here is that while the mom has the rights to the custody, care and control of a child born out of wedlock, the dad does not — even if she recognizes him as the legal father or a court awards him paternity.
A legal father gets to provide child support but may need to fight for custody or parenting time
Once you are recognized as the legal father, you are automatically responsible for providing child support. But you do not automatically get the right to allocation of parental responsibilities. Rather, you get the right to petition for custody and parenting time. You will need a knowledgeable family law attorney to help you navigate the legal process of securing allocation of parental responsibilities or at least parenting time rights.
Be aware that the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984 allows a custodial parent to claim child support back until the date the child was born, so soon after you are recognized as the legal father, you may be asked to make back payments as well.
If you are not married and fear the legal mother will place the child for adoption
A paternity court action takes time. If you fear the child will be adopted before you can establish yourself as the legal dad, you should consider enrolling with the Illinois Putative Father Registry (IPFR), which is run by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. “Putative” means you claim to be the father, but your claim has not been recognized as such by the mother or a court so you have not yet established your legal paternity. If you are registered with the IPFR, the court will make sure you are notified if your child is put up for adoption. Once you receive notice, you may appear before the court to testify as to what you believe would be in the child’s best interest.
If you are a non-legal dad
Non-legal fathers have very little in the way of rights. Imagine you are not married and your partner moves out of state with a child you helped raise for 10 or 15 years. You are left with no legal recourse. That does not mean you may not seek parenting time rights, particularly if you helped raise the child for many years and were a primary giver of care and emotional support.
To prevent this situation, it’s best to formalize your relationship with the child before your relationship with the other parent gets rocky by seeking a second-parent or co-parent adoption. This does require the approval of the legal parent, of course.
Get help if you are a father seeking custody
If you think it’s unfair that the winner of a paternity suit gets to pay child support but is not automatically considered for custody or even parenting time rights, you will want to have a knowledgeable family law firm and a tenacious trial lawyer on your side. Call The Law Offices of Michael P. Doman, Ltd. at 847.897.5288 or contact us online today to put 25 years of allocation of parental responsibilities experience on your side.