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Addressing child custody issues as an unmarried parent

A divorce is not the only event that may require Illinois parents to address the future of their children. Parents who have chosen to bring children into the world outside of formalized marriages may confront their own unique issues in the event that they elect to end their relationships. Although some similarities will exist between child custody matters for married and unmarried parents, several important differences make it imperative that unmarried parents understand their rights.

First, a father who has not acknowledged their paternity over a child or who is not listed on the child's birth certificate may not be considered a parent to their child and may therefore not be able to pursue custody of them. A presumptive father may wish to take action to affirmatively demonstrate his relationship with his child.

Second, an unmarried parent who has lived separate from their child may struggle to obtain sole custody, particularly if the child has been under the care of their other parent. Courts may hesitate to take children out of the homes of their primary caregivers and as in cases of divorce courts will look to the best interests of the children when making important decisions about child custody.

Unmarried parents who decide to end their relationships can, like married parents, work out their own custody and parenting plans. If those plans address the best interests of the children they serve then courts may allow them to serve as the operational documents in the parents' post-relationship custodial lives. Unmarried parents who have concerns about their upcoming custody hearings can always seek the help of legal professionals in their communities.

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