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Extra steps Wheaton unmarried fathers take to be called 'dad'

Wheaton dads, married or unmarried, have the same parental rights. However, married fathers do not have to jump through the legal hoops unmarried fathers do to prove parentage. Legal and physical custody aren't issues for married parents unless they separate or divorce.

Unmarried fathers are required to establish paternity before gaining rights that come to married men automatically. Unmarried Illinois couples may sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity to formalize a father's legal standing. Otherwise, a parent may pursue a paternity order through Illinois Child Support Services or a family law court.

DNA testing is used to confirm a father's genetic and legal connection to a child. Paternity establishes parental rights and duties. An unmarried father gains the right to seek child custody but also assumes responsibility for a child's welfare, including financial support.

A book written by a Fordham Law School professor concludes family laws are unfair to unmarried dads. The published study contends lack of legal protection means many unmarried fathers are excluded from their children's lives. Alleged fathers may not have the resources for a paternity claim, which gives mothers full control over access to children.

Parents who divorce are required to take legal steps to end the marriage that include child support and custody agreements. There are no such formalities when unmarried parents break up. The book stated 50 percent of unmarried dads were not residing with mothers at the time of a child's birth.

Many unmarried fathers also struggle with child support issues. The professor stated a significant number of unmarried dads have limited educations and wage earning abilities. Some fathers also have a history of imprisonment, preventing them from living up to financial obligations.

A paternity case may be filed by either unmarried parent. Parentage helps unmarried fathers and their children maintain a healthy, close relationship. Children benefit by receiving the full support of both parents.

Source: The New York Times, "What Unmarried Fathers Have to Worry About" Clare Huntington, Jun. 13, 2014

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