Non-Biological Parent Granted Parental Rights after Divorce

The structure of the American family is drastically changing. Even though the majority of children are still raised in households with a married mother and father, that number has been decreasing over the years. According to the Pew Research Center, less than half of American children are living with both of their parents in their first marriage. Family structures in the United States have been changing and now include blended families with step-parents and children, parents who cohabitate and LGBT families. According to The Williams Institute, about half of LGBT women and a fifth of LGBT men are raising a child.

The Case

Recently, an Illinois court ruled that a woman has parental rights to a child that was conceived in her lesbian marriage. The woman’s former wife had sought a sperm donor to carry the child that was to be raised by the both of them. When the child was born, both parents identified themselves as co-parents on the birth certificate but split seven months after the birth. Even though the woman has no biological connection to the child, she was granted parental rights and partial custody of the child by a Winnebago County court.

Determining Parentage

Under Illinois law, a person is considered to be a parent of a child if the mother of the child and the person entered into a marriage, civil union, or other legal relationship before the birth of the child and the child was born during the time of the relationship. Using this law, the mother seeking parental rights in the case involving her non-biological child had a right to seek custody.

Illinois Parental Rights Laws

According to Illinois law, parents can assert rights involving their non-biological child and they can also be held responsible for providing child support payments.  In the state of Illinois, parental responsibility consists of two things – significant decision-making and parenting time. Significant decision-making consists of things such as:

  • Education, including the choice of schools and tutors;
  • Health, including all decisions pertaining to the medical, dental and psychological well-being of the child;
  • Religion;
  • Extracurricular activities; and
  • Unless an agreement by both parents is submitted that details the allocation of parental responsibilities, the court will determine which responsibilities are allocated to each parent.

Determining Factors

In the event that the parents can not come to an agreement in determining parental responsibilities, the court will determine the responsibilities that each parent is accountable for. When making these determinations, the court looks at these factors:

  • The wishes of the child;
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and community;
  • The mental and physical health of the child and both parents;
  • The ability of the parents to cooperate, or the level of conflict between them;
  • The level of each parent’s past participation in parental responsibilities;
  • Any prior agreement between the parents involving parental responsibility;
  • The wishes of the parents;
  • The child’s needs;
  • The distance between the parent’s homes, the difficulty of transporting the child to and from the homes, each person’s daily schedules and the parent’s ability to comply with the arrangement;
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to encourage and facilitate a relationship between the other parent and the child;
  • The likability of abuse by either parent to the child; and
  • Whether one of the parents is a sex offender.

Seek Help from an Illinois Parental Rights Lawyer

Navigating the court system when you are seeking custody arrangements for your child is difficult and can be confusing. Having an experienced Illinois parental rights lawyer with you can provide a sense of relief and support. The Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C. can help you figure out what is best for you and your child. Call 630-409-8184 to schedule a consultation.

Sources:

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/1-the-american-family-today/

http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/LGBT-Parenting.pdf

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-same-sex-marriage-parental-rights-ruling-20180501-story.html

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=075000460HArt%2E+2&ActID=3638&ChapterID=59&SeqStart=900000&SeqEnd=1600000

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