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Child custody for single mothers and fathers

28802371_S.jpgSome Illinois single mothers may be confused about how child custody laws assigning parental responsibilities and parenting time relate to their experiences. This is especially true when the father is unknown, is not listed on the birth certificate or does not want to play an active role in the child's life. Forty percent of all children across the country are born to parents who are not married, up from 18 percent in 2007. Of course, many unmarried parents are in committed relationships or both involved in their children's lives.

However, if the father of a child is not in the picture, a single mother may not know if she has to file for custody and officially seek the assignment of parental responsibilities. Some may worry that by filing for child custody to be established in their names, a formerly absent father may suddenly reappear, even if he has previously shown no interest in the child. When the parents of the child were never married and the father never established legal paternity, there is no presumption of paternity. However, if the father of the child comes forward, proves paternity and seeks parenting time or shared parental responsibilities, he has a right to make his case to the court.

Even if the child has been living with his or her mother since birth, the court will hear both parents' testimony in order to make a decision that is in the best interests of the child. In general, courts prefer that children are in contact with both of their parents.

Single mothers and fathers may have a number of questions about how they can protect their rights to and involvement with their children. A family law attorney may provide advice and guidance to reach a fair child custody agreement or representation in court to fight for a client's parental rights.

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