Creating the Parent-Child Relationship
It 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.
In order to establish legal paternity without a VAP, an order must be entered by the relevant family court, or an administrative proceeding must be completed with the Illinois Department of Child & Family Services (DCFS). Generally, DNA testing will be part of any proceedings if parentage is truly in doubt, and it is always a good idea to ensure that you know the results before agreeing to anything. Illinois courts are unlikely to overturn paternity findings even if it later comes out that the child is not yours. This can affect everything from child support payments to parenting time and beyond.
If You Encounter Resistance
There are many reasons the mother of a child may not wish to acknowledge you as the child’s father or pursue testing to establish the fact. Some are rather understandable while others may be more malevolent. She may fear torpedoing a current relationship by acknowledging your paternity, or she may be embarrassed that she is unsure. Some women, however, try to establish paternity for the sole purpose of obtaining child support.
If you reasonably believe that you are a child’s father and want to be involved in that child’s life, you are entitled to initiate action—in court or in an administrative proceeding—to settle the matter. Many men labor under the mistaken presumption that only the mother may request adjudication of paternity, but this is not the case. However, it is important to establish your credibility even as you get started in the process. For example, registering with the Illinois Putative Fathers Registry and gathering information in support of your assertion can bolster your case dramatically.
Work With a Skilled Attorney
It is patently unfair to assume that all unmarried men have no interest in their children or in fatherhood, but stereotypes still persist. If you are in a situation where you need to prove paternity, enlisting the assistance of a qualified attorney can be crucial. Contact an experienced Kane County paternity lawyer to discuss your case today. Call 630-232-9700 and schedule your confidential consultation at The Law Offices of Douglas B. Warlick & Associates