For married couples, the identity of a child’s parents is typically not in doubt, and both spouses are prepared to raise the child. However, for parents who are not married, establishing paternity can make a great difference for a child, ensuring that both parents will play a role in the child’s life and provide the child with financial support. By including a father’s name on a child’s birth certificate, this can protect the rights of both the father and the child.
What Is Paternity?
When a child is born, the relationship between the mother and the child will be obvious, but the child will not necessarily have a legal relationship with his or her father. If the mother is married, her husband is assumed to be the child’s father. However, for couples who are not married, even if they are engaged, the identity of the father will not be presumed, and paternity will need to be legally established. The only exception to this is if a mother’s marriage ended within 300 days before the child was born. In these cases, her former spouse is assumed to be the child’s father.
In most family law situations, Illinois courts prefer to keep both parents involved in a child's life whenever possible. This is exactly what establishing paternity does; it gives a child the right to have a relationship with both parents, and both the father and mother will be required to provide child support to meet the child’s needs. The child will also have the right to receive benefits such as Social Security, insurance coverage, and veteran’s benefits, and he or she will be able to receive an inheritance from both parents. The father would also have child custody rights if something were to happen to the mother. While establishing paternity does not guarantee that a father will share in parental responsibilities (custody) or parenting time (visitation), it gives the father the right to petition the court to address these matters.