Rights of Unmarried Parents in Illinois

By Editorial Team

Updated October 14, 2019

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In Illinois, parents who are unmarried at the time of their child's birth have different rights than those who divorce during the pregnancy or after the child is born. Without marriage, the father's legal parentage of the child is not automatically assumed and thus he has no automatic rights and obligations to the child. However, a father's legal parentage can still be established several ways without marriage.


For fathers in Illinois, legal parentage of a child outside of marriage can be established by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form (VPA). It can also be established by a court order, by a Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) order or by other public aid order.

Unmarried Mother

The unmarried mother is presumed to have legal and physical custody of the child from birth because there is no question that she is the mother. She carries and gives birth to the baby. Until paternity is established among unmarried parents, she has sole legal and physical custody of the child. However, she does have the right to seek financial assistance from the child's father, which typically involves the establishment of paternity.


In cases where the father knows without a doubt that he is the child's father, Illinois offers a voluntary affidavit of paternity. The father can sign this affidavit at the child's birth and automatically becomes the child's legal father. If the father questions his paternity, a test can be ordered by the court to establish paternity. However, as an unmarried couple, acknowledging paternity does not give the father automatic rights to visitation. He must seek visitation through the courts.


When an unmarried father becomes the legal father, the child gains the right to financial support from her father. The mother must go through the child support office to request an order but the order will be made. There is no way in Illinois to forfeit the child's right to the financial support of both parents without terminating parental rights. The father is also obligated to help out with medical insurance and uncovered medical costs, as well as any costs incurred after high school in relation to college.


If the father wishes to have visitation with his child, he can request to see the child through the mother. However, the mother does not have to allow him to see the child without a court order. Therefore, it is in the father's best interest to file for visitation through the court. Once a court order is established, the mother cannot deny the father the visits as outlined in the court order. Visits are established based on the best interest of the child. For instance, if the father has been absent from the child's life, he may be granted short, supervised visits at first, working up to longer, unsupervised visits.

Removal from Illinois

When a parent wishes to move away from Illinois, even if the parents were never married, she must seek the approval of the court; it does not matter if paternity has been established. When proposing the move, it is up to the parent who is seeking the move to show the court that the move is in the best interest of the child; this includes moving to a better support system and a better standard of living. This rule does not apply when a parent is taking the child out of state for a vacation.