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Choosing Single Parenthood – What are the Legal Implications?


Published on January 19th, 2022

If you live with a child but don’t have a spouse or live-in partner, you fit the definition of a single parent. We hear that term a lot these days, possibly because this country has the highest rate of single parents in the world. Almost a quarter of households with children are single-parent homes in the U.S. And while portrayals of single parenthood in the media often gloss over the legal implications of raising a child alone, the truth can be a bit more complicated.

Single Parenthood in the U.S.

Even though there are millions of single parents in the US, their circumstances vary greatly. One difference is based on gender. According to Illinois law, an unwed woman who has a child will typically have sole custody until paternity is proven. But there are other potential issues to consider. The benefits of financial support, concern for the child’s future, potential safety concerns, and the father’s rights are all topics that may come into play once the child is born.

And not all single parents are women. The number of single dads has been on the rise, as well. There are roughly 2.4 million single-parent households headed by dads, according to the US census. Like single moms, they achieve this status in a variety of ways. Most are divorced. Some are widows. The mother may have waived her rights as a parent or been deemed unfit by a court of law.

Naturally, determining paternity is unique to fathers. While not legally required, men may be asked to take a paternity test or request one themselves, depending on the situation. Once paternity is established, the father will have certain rights and obligations, just like the mother, regardless of how much contact he has with the child. Suffice it to say, there are many reasons to consult with a family law attorney, whether you plan to be a single parent or may have to help support one.

Rise in Single Parents by Choice

Becoming a single parent by choice is an increasingly popular path to parenthood. It’s a common misconception that you have to be married to adopt a child. In fact, over a quarter of the kids adopted through foster care in 2017 were adopted by single people. Most were women, but a growing number of men are doing so, as well. Other women have had a child on their own through artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization. Meanwhile, more men are seeking to become parents through adoption, surrogacy or fostering, despite not having a partner.

As all-consuming as these processes can be, it’s important to keep in mind that parents have certain legal rights and responsibilities regardless of whether they’re married or in a couple. Moreover, the path to single parenthood often brings its own set of potential legal implications. For example, attorneys are often used to help families who have connected with expectant mothers, as well as to help parents identify adoptive families. Adopting and fostering are both complex, time-consuming processes that are subject to numerous statutes and regulations. An experienced lawyer will let you know what your rights are regardless of which path you hope to take to become a parent.

Rights and Custody Issues for Co-Parents in Illinois

There are other paths to single parenthood, not all of them planned. The reality is that many people become single parents following a breakup or a divorce, and there is much more to successful single parenthood than being the biological parent of a child. Men and women alike often need assistance from the other parent to raise their children as co-parents.

Here are some of the directions this process can take:

  • Split Parenting Time. Some couples successfully create a split custody arrangement with the assistance of an attorney for each party. They typically create a joint parenting plan that includes scheduling details, financial support and other information about their respective rights and duties.
  • Court-Ordered Mediation. Some people become single parents after attending court-ordered mediation. The role of the mediator – who might be an attorney, social worker, or other neutral third-party – is to help the two parties communicate and come to an agreement.

Becoming a single parent can be daunting under any circumstances. If you are pursuing single parenthood and have questions about your rights, consult an attorney at  Davis Friedman as soon as possible. One of our family law experts can walk you through your options and help ensure your interests are protected, as well as your child’s. Contact us at  312-782-2220  for a consultation today.

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