Father’s Rights

The city of Chicago, like other cities across the nation, looks at a father’s rights on a case-by-case basis. While many people believe that a mother usually receives full custody of the child, this is not always the case. A father can receive joint custody, joint physical custody or a combination of the two. Joint custody gives both parents the right to make decisions about the children even if they spend more time with one parent over the other.

The courts have specific guidelines when determining child support. Any change from those guidelines must be clearly explained, which keeps the child support as fair as possible for both parties.

Even if a father does not have legal visitation rights, according to the courts, the mother should allow the children to spend time with him except in rare cases. These includes cases when the safety and welfare of the child would be jeopardized. If the mother does not cooperate, the father should immediately request a legal visitation schedule by contacting the appropriate court. This allows the court to set up a specific schedule that both parents can follow.

In some cases, a mother might refuse to let the father visit with the children in spite of a court order. While every situation should be handled on a case-by-case basis, the father can file either a civil or criminal suit. Civil cases are disagreements between private parties about legal rights. In parental rights, it could show that the mother is in contempt of court. Criminal court handles crimes against the government; the state prosecutes these. A criminal case against a parent could mean a misdemeanor conviction according to Illinois law carrying with it the possibility of time in custody.

Job schedule changes or the loss of a job bring up different questions for fathers. A schedule change means the father needs to file a petition to modify the visitation schedule. Job loss also means the father should file a petition to reduce or suspend support. Both of these matters should be addressed through the courts to enforce their legality. If a mother continually disparages the father around the children, the father can file an injunctive order. This prevents the mother from speaking negatively about the father in front of the children.

In August 2009, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed four laws sponsored by The Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood that enhanced the focus on father’s rights. SB1628 states that both parents have a right to DNA testing. In addition, withholding visitation rights is a crime, which places a stricter burden on the custodial parent to ensure that the other parent sees the children as scheduled. SB1590 permits virtual visitation thus enabling parents who are in custody to visit with their children by way of phone, Internet or video conferencing. HB4008 further emphasizes the paternity aspects of SB 1628. HB2266 amends legal terms used in family law.