Whether you’re a single mother raising a child alone or you’re a father looking to modify a custody plan, you may find yourself asking, “What are fathers’ rights in Illinois?” A father’s rights to his child give him certain benefits and responsibilities, including legal and physical child custody, visitation rights, potential child support payments, and more.

It’s imperative that both mothers and fathers understand the varying rights a father receives to help prevent disputes. If you’re going through a child custody battle or are looking to prove paternity in Illinois, we highly recommend working closely with Chicago family lawyers.

Establishing Paternity in Illinois

In order for a father to have legal rights to their child in Illinois, they must first establish paternity. This means the father must be legally recognized as the child’s biological father and guardian. This can be done through multiple methods. One of the most common ways fathers receive rights in Illinois is when they are married to their child’s mother and sign their birth certificate at birth.

If you are unmarried but still wish to establish your rights at the time of your child’s birth, Illinois allows unwed parents to sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” form in the hospital to quickly establish paternity and avoid court processes. A Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity can also be signed later in your county clerk’s office, local DHS office, or registrar of vital records.

Fathers can also request a DNA test if they need to prove they are the biological father in order to receive rights through voluntary acknowledgment. If paternity has not yet been established, the father has zero rights to the child.

What are fathers rights in Illinois?

Understanding Child Custody Arrangements in Illinois

Child custody is a broad term used to describe the varying roles and responsibilities that are legally granted to each parent. The two main forms of child custody are known as physical and legal custody. In Illinois, separated parents may either receive both legal and physical custody rights, just legal custody rights, just physical custody rights, or no rights at all, depending on the situation.

Physical custody gives a parent the right to have their child live with them and also mandates that a parent provides adequate food, shelter, and other basic needs for their child. Legal custody gives one or both parents the right to make decisions on their child’s behalf. This could include deciding where a child goes to school, what medical treatment they can receive, and any other decisions regarding the child’s welfare.

When parents cannot agree on the details of child custody, a mediator will be assigned to help them sort out the arrangements. If an agreement is not reached during mediation, a judge will step in to determine what is in the child’s best interest. In Illinois, mothers generally have sole legal and physical custody of a child until paternity has been established.

How Does Joint Custody Work in Illinois?

In Illinois, a court will generally default to a 50/50 split between parents so long as it is in the best interest of the child. While decision-making is split equally, visitation (actual parenting time) is not always equal. This is because the child may reside with one parent more often than the other in order to attend school, activities, and so on. Joint custody is often recommended because it allows both parents to stay active in their child’s life.

Understanding Child Support Obligations

Child support is an order that requires a parent to legally assist with the financial responsibilities associated with raising a child. Fathers and mothers, if they are non-custodial parents, must contribute financially to their child’s upbringing. Factors such as the income of both parents, the number of children shared, and parenting time are used to calculate the child support amount owed.


Q: Does a Father Have Rights to a Child in Illinois?

A: Yes. In Illinois, mothers and fathers have the same general rights unless they have been deemed unfit or unable to care for their children. However, fathers’ rights begin if and only when paternity has been established. If paternity has not yet been established, the father has zero rights to the child.

Q: Can a Mother Deny a Father Visitation Rights in Illinois?

A: It is smart to consult with a Chicago family lawyer if you’re looking to make adjustments to your visitation schedule. A mother may be encouraged to use her discretion when denying visitation if the visitation will directly result in physical, sexual, or emotional harm to the child. However, she cannot simply deny a father visitation rights just because she wants to.

Q: Can a Father Get 50-50 Custody in Illinois?

A: A court will generally default to a 50/50 custody split, provided it is in the best interest of the child. While decision-making, also known as legal custody, is normally split equally, actual parenting time is not always equal. This is because the child may reside with one parent more often than the other so they can attend school, activities, and so on.

Q: Is Illinois a Pro-Dad State?

A: Illinois courts do not favor mothers over fathers but instead make decisions based on the best interest of the child. To consider the best interest of a child, the court has to look at factors such as the child’s preferences, the parents’ preferences, the health of the child, the child’s age, the ability of each parent to care for their child, and more.

Stange Law Firm: Chicago Family Lawyers

Father’s rights have been a topic of discussion for years. If you are an unwed father or are going through a divorce, it is in your interest to seek legal counsel to ensure you can fight for the rights you deserve. Our experienced attorneys at Stange Law Firm can help you navigate or initiate custody arrangements so that your child’s best interest is always prioritized. Contact our team at Stange Law Firm today to schedule a consultation and learn more about paternity in Illinois.