In this article we explain how child custody is determined for teenage parents in Illinois and answer the question “what happens when parents are minors in Illinois?”
In Illinois, the baseline rule is that parents who are under the age of 18 have the same rights to parenting time and responsibility as parents who have reached the age of majority. In allocating parenting time and responsibility courts look at all of the facts of the case and make a decision based on the best interests of the child involved. To learn more about how courts make this determination, check out our article: Illinois Parenting Laws 2019.
For the most part, parenting time and responsibility for minor parents is determined in the same way as it is determined for parents who are over 18. However, when parents are under the age of 18 the age and maturity level of the parents weigh more heavily in the court’s decision. The bottom line question is whether the underage parent has a level of responsibility that allows him or her to be fit to be a parent.
Just as in any other situation where the parents are unwed, a teenage father must establish paternity before he will have any rights to parenting time and responsibility. To learn more about this, check out: Illinois Paternity Law Explained.
Often, when a child is born to teenage parents, the grandparents of the child will play a significant role in caring for and raising the child. This may take the form of informal support to the parents. However, sometimes it makes sense for the grandparents to adopt the child or be named as guardian for the child.
When grandparents are named legal guardian of their grandchildren, they will become temporarily responsible for the child’s care and upbringing until such time as the child’s parents are mature enough to take over parental responsibility, at which point the guardianship may be terminated.
This process can be initiated by the grandparents filing a petition for guardianship with the circuit court in the county in which the child resides. If the parents do not voluntarily agree to the guardianship, the grandparents will bear the burden of demonstrating at a hearing that the parents are unfit to serve as the child’s parents and that a guardianship is in the child’s best interests.
For more, check out: Illinois Guardianship Explained.
Alternatively, the grandparents can seek to adopt their grandchild if the parents are underage. Similar to a guardianship, the grandparents must demonstrate that the parents are not fit to be parents. However, unlike a guardianship, when grandparents adopt the child, the parents’ rights will be permanently terminated. Adoption is permanent while a guardianship is temporary. Sometimes this permanent transfer of parental rights may be in the best interest of the child, depending on the family’s situation.
For more, check out: The Illinois Adoption Process Explained.
To learn how child support works when the parents are underage, you can check out our article: Child Support for Teenage Parents in Illinois.