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In Illinois, as an unmarried mother, do I have sole legal and physical custody as long as the child's father doesn't contest it?

Darien, IL |

My 2 year old child's father left the state several months ago and is only working a few hours a week, living with others. He has never, in the several years I've known him, been able to keep a job and has never supported me or my child. He has an unfortunate past and no knowledge at all of how to raise a child. I have a steady work history and good family support system. If he shows up at my door asking to see his child, am I legally obligated to let him? I fear unsupervised visitation could result in his attempting to flee with the child. Do I need to consult a lawyer only if he attempts to legally gain custody or visitation? If the retainer/legal fees are significant, I doubt he could get the money to pay for representation, but could he get free representation?

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Attorney answers 4


Your question leaves out some significant facts. Were your and your child's father ever married? The presumption is no. If yes, he may automatically have certain rights and responsibilities. If no, did he signed the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP)? If so, he is legally the father. If not, was he deemed the father in a court of law? If so, he is legally the father. A legal father has certain rights and responsibilities. Those include but are not limited to paying child support and having parenting time unless he is found to need restricted or no time with the child. If there has never been an order for support, you will probably never get it. You need to go to court to get a support order. Once a support order is in place, you are presumed to be the sole custodial parent. If there has never been an order, the assumption remains based upon your current living situation, but the argument is a little weaker.

If the father shows up lookng for parenting time, he is not entitled to it absent a court order, but your child really is entitled to know his father. If you have a fear that dad will steal the child away, you have options and ways to prevent that.

Bottom line - You are walking down a long and possibly complex legal matter involving your child. Go see a lawyer and get all your answers. Go see a lawyer and be prepared for what might happen, whether now or in the future. Do not rely on online Q&A forums to answer all the details. We are here to give you general guidance but are not in a position to provide the specific legal advice you now or will soon need. Best wishes.


are you unmarried now? that is not relevant.

if you were never married to the biological father, if there is no court order concerning custody, there is a presumption that you have sole custody.

if there is no court order saying he is the dad and if he did not sign the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, then legally he is not the dad. thus no dad thus you have custody.

you may want to sue him for child support. collection will be a real problem if he is out of state and not working.

if you are on public aid of any kind, including all kids, you will have to name the dad and pursue him for money or lose your aid.

go see a lawyer for real advice.


We can't really answer your question because you've not given enough information.

What you SHOULD do, however, is get the legal paperwork taken care of -- establish that he's the father, secure sole custody, restrict his contact with the child, and seek support. That way, if he DOES show up to see the child, there won't be any question as to what should happen.


If there is no court order concerning his visitation, then you do not have to legally let him see the child. You do not know his history. You do not know if he plans on taking the child out of the state or killing the child. So, I would advise you to not let him take the child until there is a court order.

Please call if you need more information.
Jeff Jacobosn 331-222-9529

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