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Kane County family law attorneysWhen a woman gives birth to a child, there is obviously no question as to the biological relationship between the baby and the mother. However, this is not always the case with the father of the baby. When a woman is married, her husband is assumed to be the biological father of a child she gives birth to. In such a case, the father does not need to do anything to establish the legal rights and responsibilities that come with being a parent. However, the same is not true for unmarried fathers. You will need to first establish paternity.

Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity 

If a couple who is not married has a child together, they have several options for establishing paternity. The easiest way to establish paternity is by signing a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity (VAP) document. These forms are often available at the hospital and can be signed by both parents shortly after their baby is born. VAP forms are also available at your local county clerk, the Department of Health and Family Services, and at Child Support Services. A VAP form should only be used when the parents are certain as to the paternity of the child. If you are not certain as to the biological relationship between your child and his or her possible father, you should not sign a VAP form.

When the Father is Unknown or Does Not Admit His Paternity

You will need to get a court order or administrative order through the Department of Health and Family Services (DFHS) if you cannot sign a VAP. The court and, in some cases, the DHFS have the ability to compel the potential father to submit to DNA testing in order to determine if he is the father of the child. If the DNA test results show that the potential father is indeed the biological father of the child, he becomes the child’s legal father and will likely be required to pay child support. If he chooses to, he will also be able to pursue parental responsibilities and parenting time with the child.

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Kane County family law attorneysSince the 2015 United States Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, states can no longer legally ban gay couples from marrying. Since this landmark decision, same-sex couples across the country are marrying and beginning their lives as legal spouses. Many same-sex couples also wish to start a family of their own. Same-sex couples can sometimes face complicated legal obstacles when children are involved. Fortunately, there are several legal avenues that Illinois residents can use to obtain parental rights. One of these is second parent adoption, also called co-parent adoption. Second parent adoption can allow same-sex couples to legally adopt a child into their family.

Second Parent Adoption Differs from Other Types of Adoptions

When most people think of adoption, they imagine a situation in which a parent gives up his or her parental rights and another individual takes on those parental rights. In a same-sex situation, things are often much different. It is not uncommon, for example, for one of the partners to be the only legal parent that the child has. That parent may have adopted the child originally or had the child without another parent involved, such as through a sperm bank or surrogacy. Through a second-parent adoption, the parent’s partner can become the child’s other legal parent.

Benefits of Second Parent Adoption

There are many reasons an individual would want to adopt their same-sex partner’s child. One benefit is the legal right to make healthcare decisions for the child. For example, if an injury or illness leaves a parent or child incapacitated in some way, only legally-recognized parents will have full authority over health care decisions. Even if someone has been acting as a parent in a child’s life for a long time, without a legally-recognized relationship, they may not have any legal rights to the child. This means that if the legal parent passes away or becomes incapacitated, the child may not be able to stay with the parent’s spouse. In the past, children have been actually removed from their home in circumstances like these due to the lack of the other spouse’s legal parentage.

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Kane County family law attorneysIf you are an unmarried parent or a parent who is getting divorced, you probably have many questions about how parental responsibilities and allocation of parenting time of your child or children will be handled by Illinois courts. If you can come to an agreement on parental responsibilities and allocation of parenting time with the child’s other parent, you and the other parent will be asked to create a parenting plan or parenting agreement. A parenting agreement is a document which you and your child’s other parent use to outline parental responsibilities and allocation of parenting time and other decisions about the child’s upbringing.

Parents have 120 days after filing a parentage action or divorce petition to file a parenting plan. This initial plan is a temporary placeholder for the more permanent parenting arrangement. This initial plan may be filed jointly or separately. Eventually, parents will be asked to agree on all of the parental duties including who will make decisions about the child as well as how the parenting time will be shared. Parents who do not reach an agreement about these issues before the “status date” will most likely be sent to mediation. Parents can be granted an extension for one of three reasons:

  • To continue working on the agreement in mediation;
  • To continue working on the agreement outside of mediation; and
  • For a good cause such as when parents’ schedules have not allowed enough time in mediation.

In Illinois, a parenting plan must include, but is not limited to, directions about:

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Kane County family law attorneysIf you are a divorced, separated, or unmarried parent, holidays can present a number of rather unique challenges. In most families, holidays are a time for getting together with loved ones, many of whom have not seen one another in some time—possibly since the same holiday last year. Of course, parents want their children to be part of the festivities and to visit with family members who may have traveled a great distance for the occasion. If you are subject to a court-approved parenting plan, however, it may take some negotiation to figure out where your children will be spending the holidays.

Do Not Wait

While it may not seem possible, Thanksgiving is just a few short days away. This means that you and your child’s other parent should not delay in making plans regarding your holiday parenting time. The first thing you should do, however, is to check your parenting plan document, as many such plans contain a holiday parenting time schedule created years in advance to reduce confusion. If your plan does not include a holiday schedule or provides that you will negotiate a reasonable agreement each year, it is time to start preparing for winter holidays.

Prioritize and Compromise

While many families will get together quite often, including on commonly-celebrated holidays, certain holidays are more “important”—for lack of a better word—than others to some families. For example, your family may prioritize your Christmas or Hanukkah traditions while the other parent’s family traditionally places a greater emphasis on Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day. If your respective priorities allow you, develop a plan that provides your child to be a part of each of the important celebrations.

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Kane County family law attorneysSharing parental responsibilities can be quite complicated for divorced, separated, or unmarried parents. Each parent may have an idea of how he or she thinks the child should be raised, and such ideas often differ—even between reasonable, well-meaning parents. Conflicting ideas about parenting can create confusion for the child, which is why it is so important for parents to work together to develop a parenting plan that clearly determines what role each parent will play in making significant decisions about the child’s life. 

What Are Significant Decisions?

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act defines “significant decision-making” as “deciding issues of long-term importance in the life of a child.” The law also provides several considerations that are always considered significant decisions, such as:

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Wheaton, IL 60189
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We serve clients throughout Kane County, Illinois including St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, North Aurora, Elgin, Algonquin, Aurora, Barrington Hills, Bartlett, Big Rock, Burlington, Campton Hills, Carpentersville, East Dundee, Elburn, Hampshire, Huntley, Kaneville, Maple Park, Sleepy Hollow, Wayne, West Dundee as well as throughout DuPage County.

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