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DuPage County family law attorneysChild custody and parentage issues can become more complicated when parents are unmarried. Illinois law assumes that the husband of a woman who gives birth is the father of that child. However, an unwed father is not presumed to be the child's biological parent. Fathers who want to become their child’s legal parent must establish parentage. After parentage is established, the father enjoys parental rights and gains certain legal duties to the child.

Benefits of Establishing Parentage

There once was a time when unwed parents were ostracized. Now, about 40 percent of children are born to unmarried mothers according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When unmarried parents have a child, a legal relationship between the child and his or her father must be established before a court will order child support. Establishing paternity not only makes the parental relationship official, but also provides the child with emotional and financial support from their noncustodial parent including:

  • Essential communication and relationships with both parents;
  • Child support and federal benefits including Social Security benefits; and
  • Health insurance benefits.

Methods for Establishing Paternity in Illinois

There are several methods unmarried Illinois parents can use to establish parentage. A court an enter an Order of Paternity, parents can complete a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) document, or the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services can enter an Administrative Paternity Order. After parentage is legally established, either parent may be required to pay the other child support. It is important to note that establishing parentage with a VAP or Administrative Paternity Order does not automatically guarantee custody or visitation. Issues of parental responsibility and parenting time are decided by the courts.

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DuPage County family law attorneyThe allocation of parental responsibilities, commonly called child custody, can be a complicated part of family law. When a couple who is unmarried has a child, there are different rights and responsibilities applied to each parent than if the couple is married. For example, a woman who gives birth to a child immediately has custody of that child. If an unmarried father wishes to claim legal paternity of the child, he must do so through one of several established ways.

Rights and Responsibilities of Unmarried Mothers

Mothers are automatically considered the primary custodian of a child they bear. This means that they have authority over decisions related to their child’s welfare as well as the responsibility to care for the child. More specifically, they have the right to make decisions about school, childcare, geographical moves, healthcare, religious affiliation, sports, summer camps, travel, and other aspects of the child’s life. It should be noted that there are some extreme cases in which a mother does not get custody of a child she gives birth to. For example, mothers who were found to have been using illegal drugs while pregnant can be disallowed immediate physical or legal custody of their child.

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Naperville paternity lawyersWhen an opposite-sex married couple has a child, the father is legally presumed to be the husband of the mother. When an unmarried couple has a baby, there is no presumed father. In order to be the legal father of a child, an unmarried father must establish paternity. Legal paternity gives the father certain rights and responsibilities. For example, the legal father of a child has the right to enjoy visitation, or parenting time, with the child. He will also likely be expected to pay child support. There are several ways for an unmarried father to establish paternity in Illinois.

Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity

If both parents agree on the paternity of the child, the process for establishing paternity is quite simple. Parents may sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity and then file the form with the court. This simple paperwork can be done immediately after a child’s birth in the hospital. The voluntary acknowledgement of paternity can also be signed at any time after the child’s birth. After paternity is established in this way, a father’s name is added to the birth certificate. In some cases, a voluntary acknowledgement may not be necessary if both parents confirm the identity of the father.

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Posted on in Paternity

DuPage County family law attorneyFathers’ struggles against unfair co-parents are fairly well known, with many citing statistics about unequal treatment granted to men during parenting time allocation or discussion of spousal support. However, it is important to remember that the opposite narrative does exist. Some mothers have good reasons to fear or dislike the thought of their former partner having visitation rights. If you are suddenly served with a notice of a DNA test or paternity suit, it can be both confusing and frightening.

Voluntary Acknowledgments of Paternity

The public policy of the state of Illinois is to make it so that children have contact with both parents unless there is persuasive evidence to show otherwise. In the case of unmarried parents, this means that the father of the child in question must be determined. Generally, this is done not long after a child is born when both parents complete a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP). If the alleged father does not sign the VAP, he has no legal rights to any parenting time or parental responsibilities for the child in question.

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Posted on in Paternity

Illinois paternity lawyersIn many cases, the paternity of a newborn child can be established very simply: if the mother’s husband is a witness to the process, more often than not, he is the child’s father. However, there are many more complex instances where paternity is not so easily settled, and there are many situations where specifically being named as a child’s father confers certain rights on a man that he would not otherwise have. If you are in a position where the paternity of your children is in doubt, there are steps you can take to remedy that situation.

How Paternity Is Established

In Illinois, paternity is established via one of four methods:

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