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Negotiating custody when you and your co-parent never married

Custody is something that couples struggle to resolve when they end their relationships. Illinois state law talks about the allocation of parental responsibilities and rights largely in the context of a divorce. However, plenty of couples have children without getting married.

What was once somewhat rare is now increasingly common. Unmarried parents often don’t understand what steps they have to take to assert their rights and work out a plan to share custody when they end their relationship.

Fathers may have to establish paternity

When a child is born to married parents, state law presumes that the husband is the father of the child. That same presumption does not apply to relationships not codified through marriage.

Regardless of how long a couple has remained in a relationship, they will have to specifically acknowledge the father’s paternity for him to be included on the birth certificate. Fathers who have not already established paternity will need to do so to ask for a share of parenting time.

Parents should think about what the kids need and what they can each provide

Although you can litigate your custody matters just like a divorcing couple can, it can be easier for your family if you reach a resolution outside of court. Unmarried parents can negotiate their own custody arrangements and then ask the Illinois family courts to approve them.

To set reasonable custody terms, you need to think about what each parent can provide and what the children need. If you can’t reach a settlement on your own, then it may be time to ask the courts to step in. Learning the basics about shared parental responsibilities in Illinois can make it easier for you to fight for your parenting rights.