It is far more common than it once was for couples in Illinois to choose to have children without marrying first. There can be personal, professional or even financial benefits to choosing not to marry the mother of your child. However, if the relationship fails, not being married can also cause some potentially serious issues for your family.
For example, your ex could attempt to claim that you do not have a biological link to the children or may simply start denying you access to or time with your children. If your ex won't work with you, you will need to take steps to establish yourself legally as the father of your children.
That means that you will need to establish paternity of the children to assert your rights as a parent. Once you establish you are the biological parent of your children through either paperwork or genetic testing, you will then need to prepare yourself to fulfill your parental responsibilities to your child as well.
What are parental rights and responsibilities?
Some people find the terminology used by the Illinois' family courts confusing. What the state of Illinois calls parental responsibilities, other states call child custody and child support.
Your rights as a parent include having a say in your child's health decisions, faith and education. Your parental responsibilities include providing shelter and the other basics of a healthy life, such as clothing, food and more. After all, children are dependent on their parents to support them financially and socially until they reach maturity.
Your right to visitation likely also comes with a support obligation
Many unwed fathers don't stop to think about the impact of establishing paternity. It is overall a very positive decision, especially because it solidifies your connection with your child and ensures you can ask for your rights as a parent. However, it also comes with several risks. Those risks include the potential for legal issues in the future if you have difficulty paying child support.
If you want to play an active role in your child's life, the state of Illinois will likely do what it can to support you in that effort. The courts value having both parents involved in a child's life for the benefit of the child.
However, you also have an obligation to pay child support as ordered by the courts. If you only see your child for a few hours a week, your child support obligation will likely be significant. However, if you choose to push for more shared parenting time, or a 50-50 arrangement, the requirement for support reduces accordingly. Talking about your situation with an Illinois family law attorney can help you decide the next step to take.