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Establishing Paternity in Illinois

DuPage County Divorce Attorneys

DuPage County Paternity LawyerIt is in a child’s best interest to have a consistent, quality relationship with both of his or her parents. This is true regardless of the parents’ genders. When a child is born to married or recently divorced parents, determining the child’s parentage is a non-issue. The mother’s spouse is automatically the child’s legal parent, regardless of whether the child is biologically related to him or her. In cases where a child is born due to the mother’s infidelity, this can pose a problem for the partner, who may decide to terminate his or her parental rights.

When a child is born to unmarried parents, the mother’s partner can face the opposite problem: having to establish him- or herself as the child’s other legal parent in order to ensure that he or she has the legal grounds to establish parenting time and seek child support in the event of the couple’s separation. Traditionally, this was known as establishing the child’s paternity. Today, the Illinois Parentage Act does not specify parents’ genders and applies the same requirements to same-sex couples as it applies to heterosexual couples.

Ways to Establish Paternity

There are a few ways to establish your child’s paternity. The simplest way is through a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP), which is a document you can sign at the hospital or birthing center when your child is born. If you do not sign a VAP at your child’s birth, you can obtain one from the county clerk or Child Support Services to sign and file.

Another way to establish your child’s paternity is through a Court Order of Paternity. This can be ordered from your local circuit court, which may require a hearing before issuing the order. At the hearing, you may need to provide evidence to establish your relationship with your child, which can include results from a DNA test. If you are considering this route to establish your parentage, discuss it with your lawyer – DNA evidence can support a paternity case, but it is not the single deciding factor when determining if declaring an adult to be a child’s legal parent is in the child’s best interest.

You can also establish your child’s parentage through a hearing with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. This can be a less stressful way to establish your child’s paternity than going to court, but it does involve a third party. With this process, a representative of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services interviews both parents. If the parents agree about the child’s parentage, paternity is established. If not, they may be called to court or required to complete genetic testing to determine the child’s paternity.

Why Should I Establish My Child’s Paternity?

Establishing yourself as your child’s legal parent ensures that you have parental rights involving him or her. Unless the court terminates these rights because it feels that doing so would be in your child’s best interest, you have these rights until your child is an adult. Typically, parental rights are terminated when the court determines that the parent’s behavior puts the child at risk of being harmed. For example, if the parent abuses the child or fails to seek help for a substance addiction, the court may deem him or her unfit to be a parent.

Once you establish your child’s paternity, you can establish parenting time and parental responsibilities for him or her. You can also seek child support from the child’s other parent to help pay for the costs of raising the child, such as the costs of school supplies, food, and housing, as well as contribution towards support-related expenses such as educational, day care, health care, and extra-curricular activities. It also permits you to claim the child as a dependent on your insurance and if you apply for government benefits. If your former partner wants to place the child for adoption, he or she must obtain your consent if you are the child’s legal parent.

Work With an Experienced DuPage County Family Law Firm

It is always in your best interest as well as your child’s for you to officially establish his or her parentage. Even if you are in a committed relationship with your child’s other parent and do not foresee needing to seek child support or establish a parenting plan, you cannot predict the future. Be proactive and make sure you are your child’s legal parent by working with an experienced DuPage County family lawyer to establish his or her parentage. Contact our team at Pesce Law Group, P.C. today to learn more about this process during your initial consultation.

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