Legal Question in Family Law in Illinois

I am a transgender male who has co-parented three children since 2006. My relationship with their mother ended this past December 2011. When the relationship began, our boys were 1 and 2 yrs old and my ex was one month pregnant.

My boys have known their father, but he was out of the picture before I came along; I am the only father my daughter has ever known. In the five years that I have been parenting them, no biological father has made any effort to be a part of their life. One we have not heard from since 2007 and the other is in prison. Before going to prison, this father was not part of their lives and did not take advantage of opportunities to meet the children.

I have gotten their mother to sign a document written by myself that acknowledges my past and continued role as father. I am also actively paying child support each week. My problem is that I don't feel comfortable with my status as parent. If something happens to their mother tomorrow, I doubt her family will acknowledge my role as father because of previous comments that they have made. They are unaware of my transgender status.

What are my options as far as establishing something more legal for my children. I would like shared custody because I am currently at the mercy of their mother when it comes to visitation. At the moment things are amicable but that may not always be the case.

Asked on 3/26/12, 8:40 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Steve Raminiak Law Offices of Steve Raminiak, P.C.

I doubt that your solution is in the Divorce or Paternity court. Although Illinois now acknowledges civil unions, you and your partner did not get a civil union and it is very unlikely that a Divorce Judge or a Paternity Judge would acknowledge you as a parent, even though the mother put that in writing.

However, if mother truly wants to consent to your continuing involvement, the Probate Court may allow you and the mother to become co-Guardians of all three kids. If this is accomplished, you would receive a document that proclaims you to be a co-Guardian. This would allow you to gain all of the privileges that are usually only available to parents, and it would put you and the mother on a much more even footing regarding your children's affairs.

The chief hurdle would be in securing the mother's initial consent. Generally, the Probate Court of Cook County is often very tolerant of LGBT lifestyles. However, if the mother resists, I think the Court will likely refuse to acknowledge your position in the children's lives.

Feel free to call me if you'd like to discuss this further. I won't charge for the phone call.

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Answered on 4/25/12, 9:39 pm

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