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Kane County legal parentage lawyerFor 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. 

Kane County family law attorneyIt is a common—albeit somewhat of a stereotype--trope that when a child is born, it is the mother who will have to seek the biological father out and hector him into formally acknowledging legal paternity. However, this does a disservice to the millions of fathers who actively wish to be involved in their children’s lives yet are discouraged or dissuaded from acknowledging paternity or are actively turned away from trying to claim a child as their own. If you want to be involved in your child’s life, but are facing resistance or problems, you do have options you can use to pursue the matter.

What Are My Rights?

In some cases, acknowledging paternity of your child can be very easy. When the baby is born, you and the mother—if you are unmarried—will have the opportunity to complete a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity (VAP) form. While there are other opportunities to establish paternity, this is by far the quickest and easiest method if the child’s mother is cooperative with your efforts. It is extremely important to realize, however, that completing a VAP form does not entitle you to any custodial rights regarding nor to any guaranteed parenting time. It establishes a legal parent-child relationship, but it does not make any other guarantees.

Posted on in Paternity

Kane County family law attorneyIn many states, Illinois included, the paternity of a child is in presumed to be in doubt if the mother is unmarried. There are ways to effectively establish legal paternity that are quick and easy, and by comparison, there are also ways to legally and definitively disavow paternity. Given that the law is different in every state, it is incumbent on you to know your rights and responsibilities if you decide to become a father.

Ways to Establish Legal Paternity

If you are married at the time of your child’s conception and/or birth, your husband (or ex-husband) is legally presumed to be that child’s father. If you are unmarried, there are three main ways to establish legal paternity, which both allows for rights--such as parenting time—and obligations—such as child support, if the parents do not later marry. They are:

Posted on in Paternity

Kane County parental responsibilities lawyerIn Illinois, if a child is born outside of marriage, the issue of paternity is not automatically assumed by the law. When children are born to legally married partners, paternity is assumed. For unmarried couples with children, the state or court system may become involved to determine issues of paternity, support, and parenting responsibilities if necessary. The Illinois General Assembly enacted the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984, followed by recent update—the Illinois Parentage Act of 2015—to establish legal procedures for securing the rights of unmarried parents.

Illinois Law Gives Default Parental Responsibilities to Unmarried Mothers

In Illinois, state law mandates that in the case of unmarried parents, the mother will retain all parental responsibilities—previously known as custody—until paternity is established. Paternity actions establish a legal parent-child relationship and the right to pursue responsibilities regarding or a child that was conceived outside of marriage. Either the mother or the purported father of the child may file a paternity action.

Geneva family law atttorneyUnlike fathers who were married to the mother of their child at the time of birth, unwed fathers are not automatically granted parental rights. Instead, they must take legal steps to establish their role in the life of a child. This starts with the establishment of paternity, which is not presumed for unwed fathers, and continues with a petition to the court. If you are an unwed father and want to gain and establish legal rights to parent your child, the following information can help.

Establishing Paternity

Before an unmarried father can seek legal parenting rights to his child, he must first establish paternity. This can be done in one of three ways:

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