“I’m not sure when my girlfriend got pregnant, or even if this child is my son. Will I lose any rights to custody or visitation if I ask for a DNA test?”

“My former boyfriend has never supported our daughter and refuses to visit her. Can I move to California to live with my fiance without a court order?”

“I don’t know where my children are, who is caring for them or where they go to school. I want to be more involved in their lives. Can I get joint custody if we were never married?”

Media outlets report that more than 50% of children born in the U.S. to women under 30 years of age are now born to unmarried parents. The rise in birth rates of children born out of wedlock has caused an explosion of litigation in the paternity courtrooms of Illinois. Complex issues arise as to the parents’ respective rights to custody, removal, support and visitation and are impacted by both the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984 and the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The Illinois Parentage Act of 1984 establishes Illinois’ public policy. Our State recognizes the right of every child, whether born in or out of wedlock, to the physical, emotional and financial support of both his/her mother and father. In Illinois, minors who are parents have the same support obligations as adult parents, even though they may not be old enough to work, drive or enter into contracts. Sometimes grandparents are caring for the child(ren) at issue and this also impacts custody and visitation and support issues.

Paternity cases are often more complex than divorce cases in that parents who have never been married are more likely to act unilaterally than former spouses. They have more independent lives and are accustomed to making decisions without regard to the other parent, often inadvertently impacting the other parent’s rights to child support, custody or visitation. Establishing enforceable rights and obligations is key to serving the best interests of the child(ren) in paternity matters.
Educating parents to understand how the paternity case may impact their ability to
relocate out of state with the child(ren), how it may impact their choices for their child’s education, health care and religion, and how it may impact their current or future spouse in terms of step parent visitation is crucial to a navigation of the paternity courts.