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Across the country, it is becoming increasingly popular for couples to move in together long before they intend to get married. For some, cohabitation is a stepping stone to marriage, while others a placing less emphasis on ever officially tying the knot. This may lead one to believe that there would a corresponding increase in the number of children born to unmarried parents, but the numbers, it seems, tell a different story. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the percentage of first-time fathers who are unmarried is at its lowest point in decades.

Fewer Unmarried Dads

The CDC based its report on data from the National Survey of Family Growth. Researchers used surveys of both women and men between the ages of 15 and 44. The surveys came from three different decades: 1980-1989, 1990-1999 and 2000-2009. According to the survey’s findings, the downward trend in unmarried fathers has been ongoing since the 1980s, when 42 percent of first-time fathers under the age of 44 were unmarried. In the 1990s, that number was at 40 percent.

Increased Paternal Presence

The statistics also show an increase in unmarried fathers cohabitating with the child’s mother compared to prior years.  In the last decade, almost 25 percent of unmarried parents were living together, up from 19 percent in the 1980s and 1990s. This is a positive trend, since multiple studies have shown the benefits for children—from infants to teens—when both parents are actively involved in their lives.

The data also revealed that first-time unmarried fathers in the 2000s were older compared to unmarried fathers in the prior decades. African-Americans represented the ethnic group with the largest decrease in unmarried first-time fathers, dropping from 77 percent in the 1980s to 66 percent in the 2000s.

Establishing Paternity

In Illinois, the laws governing paternity are generally contained in the Illinois Parentage Act of 2015, which was recently updated to protect the rights of parents in a wider variety of family situations.  One way in which paternity can be established is through the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP), which both parents fill out and affirm parentage. The other way to establish paternity is via DNA testing—either voluntarily or ordered by the court. Establishing paternity is essential in order to develop parenting plans determining each parent’s responsibilities and parenting time, as well as child support obligations.

A Family Lawyer Can Help

Whether you are a father seeking to establish your parental rights regarding your biological child or a mother seeking to verify paternity in order to request child support, an experienced Kane County family law attorney can provide the guidance you need. Call us today at 630-945-8807 or 847-426-1866 for a confidential consultation.