Ask A Lawyer: Do I Have Any Parental Rights Without A Court Order?

Question:

I want to have my daughter overnight on the weekend before I leave for the service next month. My daughter is almost 4 months old. I have had her once a week since she has been 2 months old. I pay everything for my daughter and have been trying to keep this out of court until I get back from my tour. Do I have any rights without a court order?

 

Answer:

Absent a court order or laws of your state setting forth certain parental rights, fathers generally do not have specific, enforceable parental rights.  Your question does not indicate whether you are married to the mother or not.  If married to the mother, generally both parents have equal legal standing as to the children, but the mother usually receives the benefit of the doubt if there is police or child services intervention in a custody or parenting issue.  If you were not married to the mother, while you may be held financially responsible without a formal court order under certain circumstances, until there is a court determination of your parental rights, you have no enforceable visitation or custody rights.  As you advise that you are leaving for military service shortly, the only issue that a court could be expected resolve in such as short time would be your child support obligation, as your custody and visitation issues necessarily would have to await your return to be fully explored by the court.


Richard Coffee is a Litigation Manager in the Belleville Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell. He is an experienced divorce attorney whose practice is devoted to domestic litigation. He is licensed in the State of Illinois and is admitted to practice law in the U.S. District Courts for Northern, Central and Southern Illinois.

Mr. Coffee has extensive domestic litigation trial experience representing clients in courts throughout Illinois on all aspects of domestic litigation, including the representation of clients who are current or retired military personnel with issues under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, clients involved in state court jurisdictional disputes due to the relocation of one or both parties from or to Illinois, and clients with government or private pension benefit valuation and division issues. 

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