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Gaining custody as an unmarried parent in Illinois

When going through a separation, many things will be simpler because you are unmarried. For example, as an unmarried couple, you'll likely avoid going through the courts when you divide assets. However, other things can become more complicated. Namely, child custody could become more difficult if you have never been married to the other parent.

If you are an unmarried father, it is of prime importance that you establish paternity. If you know that you are the father but you are not mentioned on the birth certificate, you should first ask the mother to voluntarily acknowledge that you are the father. If they refuse to voluntarily acknowledge this, you may need to go through the courts to request a DNA test so that you can prove that you are the father. This will be just the first step in gaining custody.

Establishing child custody arrangements between unmarried parents

When parentage is established in Illinois, the courts will likely also issue directives that include the allocation of parental responsibilities. These will be determined in accordance with what is deemed to be in the child's best interests.

First, the Illinois child custody courts will consider whether either parent poses any risk to the child. If accusations of emotional or physical abuse or neglect are reported, these will be fully investigated before custody is granted.

Custody courts will also consider the relationship that the child has with each parent. If they have a very strong bond with one parent and not the other, it's likely that the courts will conclude that the child is best placed in the care of the parent with whom they have the best relationship.

Other considerations will be made, such as each parent's work schedule, the suitability and safety of their home, and their perceived commitment to their child's emotional and physical development.

What happens if I want to appeal to modify the child custody decision?

You'll always have the right to appeal a decision that the courts have made. To be successful, however, you'll need to show that a change of circumstances has occurred.

If you want to gain full or shared custody as a parent in Illinois, take swift action to start planning your strategy.

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