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Crystal Lake IL paternity lawyerThe composition of the average American family has changed drastically over the years. According to the Pew Research Center, one in four children today lives with parents who are not married. One of the biggest reasons for this is an increase in the number of babies born to unmarried mothers. In 1970, only 26 out of 1,000 births were to unmarried mothers, but in 2016, 42 out of every 1,000 births were to unmarried women. Having a child outside of marriage is common these days, but it can come with its own legal hurdles. If your child is born and you are not married when it happens, you may need to take extra steps to establish paternity for your child.

Voluntarily Establishing Paternity

In Illinois, the paternity of a child is only legally presumed if the mother was married at the time of the child’s birth or within the 300 days prior to the child’s birth. If she was, the man the mother was married to is presumed to be the child’s biological father. If the mother is unmarried when she gives birth, steps must be taken to establish paternity for the child. The easiest way to do this is through a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, or VAP, for short.

A VAP is a form that the parents must fill out, sign, and either return to hospital staff who will turn it in to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, or take the form home and send it in at a later date. The form must be signed by both the mother and the father in order to have the father’s name and information added to the child’s birth certificate.

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McHenry County family law attorneyWhen a family court judge must decide how parental responsibilities (formerly known as child custody) must be allocated, that decision is always based on what arrangement will be in the child’s best interests. Many parents going through this process are unsure of what the court will be looking for in order to determine their children’s best interests. The following is a brief overview. For a more detailed explanation and how the best interest standard may apply in your situation, contact Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC.

Factors that Contribute to a Child’s Best Interests

The child’s best interests are an important factor when the court decides how parenting time and parenting responsibilities will be shared between the two parents. In many cases, it is in the child’s best interests if the two parents share custody equally, although that is not always possible given the location of each parent or their relationship with each other. There may also be issues where one parent should not have significant parenting time. Here is a closer look at what factors the courts will consider:

  • Child’s needs and adjustment to their current routine - The court will seek to ensure that the parenting arrangement provides for a child’s care needs and minimizes changes to their school and extracurricular activity routines.

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McHenry County family lawyerAs anyone who has children can attest, it is not easy to be a parent. Parenting is infinitely more challenging after a divorce or breakup, especially if the other parent has been granted substantially more parental responsibilities and parenting time than you have. Under the law in Illinois, you have the right to reasonable parenting time with your child, but exercising that right can be difficult. Additionally, you might have personal issues of your own that have led the court to restrict your parenting time rights. A situation such as this can be extremely challenging, but it is not necessarily a permanent state of affairs, and there are some steps you can take toward getting your full parenting time rights restored.  

#1. Understand the Reasons

According to Illinois law, your parenting time rights cannot be restricted simply because a judge does not like you or the way you are living your life. The court must issue a finding that you or your lifestyle poses serious physical, mental, moral, or emotional dangers to your child, and the finding must be specific enough for you to address the court’s concerns. Common grounds for parenting time restrictions include alcohol or drug abuse issues, concerns regarding instances of physical or emotional abuse, and association with dangerous individuals. Only after you understand why the court has restricted your parenting time can you start taking steps to improve your situation.

#2. Be Compliant With the Restrictions

As you work to resolve the issues that led to your parenting time restrictions, whether they are substance abuse problems, domestic abuse concerns, or your social circle, it is absolutely critical that you comply with any restrictions the court has handed down. If the court has allowed you just one supervised hour with your child each week, make every minute count. Do everything you can to show your dedication to becoming a better person and parent. If you attempt to get around the restrictions, your actions are likely to damage your case, and you could have your parental rights terminated altogether.

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McHenry County family law attorneyAs children develop, they tend to learn the basics of life, such as walking and talking, from their parents. They also rely on parents to teach them skills that will allow them to become self-sufficient. However, parents can also have a negative impact on their children. In a home where domestic violence has occurred, even young children can sense the problems, and witnessing violence can have lasting effects on children of all ages.

What Is Considered Domestic Violence?

“Domestic violence” is a term that describes a variety of behaviors used by a person to maintain power over a family member or member of the same household. Most commonly, domestic violence occurs between former and current romantic partners, and it may include threats, physical abuse, sexual abuse, intimidation, isolation, or emotional manipulation. Domestic violence is seen in all social, economic, and racial groups, and it can affect partnerships ranging from casual relationships to married couples. Whether intentional or not, the abuser uses their power to keep the victim in an unhealthy relationship.

The Effects of Witnessing Domestic Violence

Millions of children witness abuse at home every year. A child deserves a healthy and safe home environment, but in cases involving domestic violence, home may be the last place he or she would want to be. Living with domestic abuse may mean witnessing physical violence, hearing fights, and seeing the aftermath, such as bruises or property damage. When they live in a home where violence is occurring, children may experience a variety of negative effects, including:

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McHenry County family law attorney parenting time

Unlike divorcing couples with children, parents who were never married do not automatically receive rights to parenting time. Instead, they must pursue it. Further, an order requiring the payment of child support does not guarantee parenting time to the paying parent. With this in mind, it is important to understand how you can get time with your child if you were never married.

Why Pursue Parenting Time?

Fathers who are not married to the mother of their child often wonder if it is worth pursuing parenting time with their child. They may be concerned about cost, or they may fear their rights will not be acknowledged by the courts. Rest assured that as long as you are not considered to be a risk to the child’s safety or emotional well-being, it is likely that your presence may be considered a positive influence on the life of your child. Further, studies have shown that children often fare better when they have two loving and connected parents. Since you may be required to financially contribute to the rearing of your child, regardless of whether you pursue parenting time or not, why not consider making an emotional contribution as well?

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