Unwed fathers and child custody
Concerns about how child custody matters will be decided often weigh heavily on the minds of unwed parents. Perhaps more than any other family law-related matters, proceedings related to child custody and visitations are highly emotional and can bring out the worst in both parents.
While a parent may fear and dread the possibility of sharing custody with an ex, it’s important to keep in mind that, while you may want nothing to do with an ex, he or she is still your child’s father or mother and it’s important to respect and help foster a child’s relationship with an ex. Still, when it comes to one’s son or daughter and negotiating child custody matters, many parents have trouble keeping their emotions in check and making concessions.
For unwed fathers, the process of trying to obtain custody or visitation rights can be particularly challenging and, at times, seem unfair. If a child’s father was never married to the mother, in order to be able to petition for child custody or visitation, he must take steps to legally establish paternity. Once a father has established paternity and petitioned the court for custody and visitation rights, a family law judge will take a number of factors into consideration prior to making any decisions.
For example, a judge will evaluate a child’s relationship with his or her mother and father as well as the child-rearing responsibilities each has assumed. Additionally the court may appoint a psychologist to interview the child and the child’s mother and father to evaluate issues related to mental and emotional health and physical safety and wellbeing.
In Illinois, family courts make child custody decisions based upon what is deemed to be in the best interests of a child and “there is no presumption for or against joint custody.” It’s important, therefore, that fathers who wish to obtain custody rights seek the advice and assistance of an attorney who has successfully helped other fathers in similar situations.
Source: Illinois Legal Aid, “Getting Custody of a Child,” Dec. 8, 2015
FindLaw.com, “Child Custody: Summaries of State Laws,” Dec. 8, 2015