Calabrese Associates, P.C.

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Parental Rights Without Marriage

Posted on in Paternity

Parental Rights Without MarriageYou do not need to plan on marriage in order for family law to be useful. Cohabiting couples share their lives in many of the same ways as those who marry. This includes having children, which will tie the two people together even if they separate. A co-parent who never married is responsible for child support payments if the couple lives apart. However, there are benefits to being married parents that unmarried parents do not automatically receive. Unmarried couples must proactively use family law to gain equal rights as parents.

Establishing Parentage

When a married woman has a child, her husband is assumed to be the father. A biological father who is not married to the mother must identify himself as the father in order to have paternal rights. The father can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form immediately after the child’s birth. In some situations, only one person is the biological parent. The other partner can apply for adoption to become a legal parent. Establishing parentage grants several rights regarding the child, including:

  • Making official decisions about the child;
  • Naming the child as a beneficiary; and
  • Having parenting time in the event that the couple separates.

Cohabitation Agreement

Unmarried parents who separate must go to court to establish the allocation of parental responsibilities and child support payments. However, there are no laws that enforce the division of shared properties when the couple separates. Illinois courts do not recognize unmarried couples as having the rights and protections afforded to married couples in the divorce process. Instead, unmarried couples can create a cohabitation agreement that acts similarly to a prenuptial agreement. Creating financial independence through the fair division of property allows both parties to continue their roles as parents and supporters of the children.

Estate Planning

In the event that one parent unexpectedly dies or becomes incapacitated, the other parent needs to have control over the estate and health decisions. Without marriage, the co-parent does not automatically have those powers. If the dead or incapacitated party did not name who would have those powers, the co-parent will need to go to court to establish his or her rights. Thus, it is best for both parents to prepare estate planning documents that identify who will:

  • Have power of attorney for financial decisions;
  • Have power of attorney for health decisions;
  • Inherit the person’s assets; and
  • Be the beneficiaries of a life insurance policy.

Cohabitation and Parenting

With a few extra steps, unmarried parents can create the same rights and benefits as married parents. A DuPage County family law attorney at Calabrese Associates, PC, can prepare the necessary documents to establish your parental rights. To schedule a free consultation, call 630-393-3111.


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