The Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C.


1444 North Farnsworth Avenue, Suite 307, Aurora, IL 60505

Yorkville Office By Appointment

Initial Consultations via ZOOM Available

Illinois Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents

 Posted on March 16,2023 in Paternity

IL family lawyerEqual treatment is essential when it comes to American law. Married and unmarried parents both have the same parental rights and obligations. When people have children while unwed, things can become complicated if they decide to end their relationship. Enforcing these rights and responsibilities can add to the situation's complexity. No matter the case, Illinois laws are made to look out for the child's best interest.

What Happens When Unmarried Parents Decide to Part Ways?

Unmarried couples typically live under agreements in which they decide upon themselves. If they choose to part ways, then they must establish paternity. Similarly, they should also decide on child custody and support issues. Unmarried couples do not have the same rights as married couples. When married couples get divorced, their marital property is equitably distributed between them. However, being unmarried means that these couples will need to decide what is ultimately in the best interest of not only themselves but their child.

Legal Custody

When unmarried parents decide to end their relationship, the child's mother may automatically have sole legal and physical custody of the child depending on what steps have been taken prior to the breakup by the parents. This allows the mother to be in charge of making the crucial decisions surrounding their child’s welfare. A mother with sole legal and physical custody of a child is in charge of the following:

  • Where the child gets to live
  • Where the child attends a school
  • Childcare
  • Medical decisions
  • When and where the child takes vacations or travels

Putting the child’s father’s name on the birth certificate won't establish legal parentage if the couple is unwed. Illinois law requires that we treat parents in a ‘gender-neutral’ manner; ideally, the father should ultimately have the same rights as the mother. The father can seek custody only after establishing paternity through the court. There are three ways in Illinois that one can confirm parentage:

  • Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage (VAP) - This is a legally binding document that allows both parents to agree on who is the mother and who is the father. Whoever signs this document will be presumed the child’s father, even without a DNA test.
  • Going to court - Asking the court to decide parentage often requires a DNA test. This typically happens when the parents disagree on who the child’s father and mother are. This process is challenging to go through alone and should be guided by an experienced attorney.
  • Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) Hearing - This is meant for someone who needs to establish paternity through a hearing. This hearing will determine parentage as well as child support. However, it does not include custody or parenting time.

How to Determine Child Custody?

Legal custody allows a party to make crucial decisions in their child’s life. Physical custody is about who has the child day to day. Parents can work out a legal parenting plan with the help of an established family lawyer. A mediator may also help when making these major decisions that heavily impact the child. The court will look for what is best for the child overall.

Contact a Kane County Family Lawyer

At the The Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C., we understand how personal and difficult it can be to make major life-changing decisions for your child. In these matters, we help our clients minimize emotional discord while focusing heavily on what is best for their children. Contact an Aurora family law attorney today at 630-409-8184 and set up an initial consultation. You do not need to go through this alone.


Share this post:
The Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C.


1444 North Farnsworth Avenue, Suite 307, Aurora, IL 60505

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
Back to Top