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Establishing Paternity in Illinois: the Ins & Outs

When a child is born, it is in the child's best interests to have a relationship with both parents. Sometimes, however, one parent may deny the paternity of the father – it could be the mother who claims the child is someone else's or it could be the alleged father who doesn't believe the child is his. When paternity is questioned, paternity must be established if the father is to have any legal rights to the child. But with paternity also comes responsibilities. 

At Dolci & Weiland, our family law attorneys represent parents on both sides, those who want to establish paternity so they can file for child support and those who want to establish paternity so they can develop a relationship with the child. There are other reasons, too, that would cause someone to want to establish paternity. The laws can be complex, so it is important to contact a family law attorney at Dolci & Weiland if you have further questions you need to be answered.

Why is establishing paternity important in Illinois?

 It is important to establish paternity for many reasons, including what has already been mentioned. Establishing paternity allows:

  • the child to have a relationship with both parents;
  • the mother to request child support, health insurance, and other benefits for the child; and
  • the father's parental rights, like custody or visitation, with the child.

In some cases, a male may want to establish paternity because he does not believe he is the father of the child. A mother may demand child support but may not know for sure who the father is. Establishing paternity ends the questions and accusations.

How is paternity established in Illinois?

Paternity is established in one of three different ways:

  1. the mother and father sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage (VAP) at the time of or shortly after the child's birth;
  2. a paternity test is requested via the courts or the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS); or 
  3. a child support case is opened through DCFS or the family court in, for example, Dupage County or Cook County.

When a paternity test goes to court and the court requests a DNA test, then you must take it. In Illinois, a man is presumed to be the father if the test indicates he is 1,000 times more likely than not to be the child's father as opposed to a random man.

How does someone start a case to disprove paternity in Illinois?

If you were requested to take a paternity test, and the test proves you are the father, you can't disprove paternity. If, however, the father has not taken a paternity test, then paternity can be disproved in one of two ways.

  1. If you did not sign a VAP, you can disprove paternity by petitioning the court to establish the non-existence of a parent-child relationship; or
  2. If you did sign a VAP, then within 60 days of signing the VAP, you must sign a form known as a Rescission of Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. Your signature must be observed by a witness. The form must be sent to the Department of Health and Family Services. If you want to disprove paternity after the 60 days, you must prove in court that you were the victim of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact. 

If paternity is established, what does this mean?

When paternity is established, it means you now have responsibilities to the child but you also have rights. The most significant responsibility is the legal one: financial support. You must financially support the child until the child reaches the age of 18 or 19 in some cases. A child support calculator can be used to establish the anticipated amount. In addition to child support, you may also be ordered to cover things like:

  • medical insurance;
  • life insurance;
  • daycare expenses; and
  • extracurricular or after-school activities.

Concerning rights, you now have the right to develop a relationship with the child and can request custody or visitation. It is up to you if you want to develop this relationship with your child. If you do, then you and the mother can establish a mutual parenting plan or else you can take the matter to court and petition for allocation of parental responsibility or custody. 

When should paternity be established?

If there is a question about paternity, you should waste no time establishing it. For mothers, it is best to have paternity established prior to birth. It is safe to have a DNA test completed while pregnant. If paternity is established before birth of the child, you and the father will already be prepared. 

When the father disputes paternity, the DNA test will confirm it either way. If completed prior to the baby's birth, the mother can immediately request child support through the court or DHFS. 

If DNA testing cannot be done before the baby is born, a paternity test should be conducted as early as possible.

Does the father have rights if the baby is to be given up for adoption in Illinois?

The father has rights, but they can easily be taken away if the father is not known. This is where what's known as a "putative father" in Illinois comes into play. A putative father is a man who may be the child's biological father but is not yet the legal father because paternity has not yet been established. 

If you are a putative father, you need to register as such with the Putative Father Registry. This registry will inform you if the child is to be given up for adoption. You must register within 30 days after the child's birth to benefit from the Registry. If you do, then the child cannot be adopted without your knowledge or consent.

If you do not register timely and properly, then you could permanently lose all rights to your child.

Contact the Family Law Attorneys at Dolci & Weiland Today

As you see, there are so many factors that go into paternity. No matter what your interest is in the child, you first need to make sure that you are doing everything properly and in accordance with the law. At Dolci & Weiland, we are here to help.

We know how emotionally taxing this issue can be, so we take care of the legal part while you take care of the emotional part. We will support you in any way we can. Call us today at 630-261-9098 or fill out an online form to schedule an initial consultation.