Do Unmarried Fathers Have Custody Rights?


In Illinois, an unmarried father will have custody and visitation rights as long as legal parentage, or paternity, has been established. Establishing paternity will grant an unmarried father certain rights when it comes to his child, including raising or spending time with the child, and paying or receiving child support. Under the newly revised Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), the “allocation of parental responsibilities” – previously referred to as custody and visitation – will be influenced by paternity.

Paternity may be established in Illinois if:

  • You were married to the child’s biological mother at the time of conception, birth, or during pregnancy.
  • You were married after the birth of the child and you were listed on the child’s birth certificate, with your consent.
  • A court order was issued establishing paternity.
  • You and the child’s biological mother signed a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form and filed it with the court.

Marriage plays a big role in paternity, but it is not necessary. A VAP or court order can effectively establish paternity for an unmarried father, granting him the right to custody or parenting time (previously referred to as visitation). The court will determine how to address the allocation of parental responsibilities based on the child’s best interests.

An unmarried father may be granted parenting time or custody based on such factors as:

  • The wishes of the child (depending on the child’s age)
  • Any history of domestic abuse by either parent
  • Substance abuse by either parent
  • Each parent’s mental and physical health
  • The ability of each parent to provide a safe and beneficial environment for the child

If you are not married to your child’s mother and are looking for experienced help with custody or visitation rights, call the Law Office of David A. King, P.C. at (630) 504-7210. Our DuPage County child custody attorneys can protect your rights as a parent by establishing paternity and pursuing custody.


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