Establishing Paternity for Unwed Fathers
In 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.
A family law attorney representing the father will often file a paternity action when the father wishes to obtain parental and visitation rights. Without establishing legal paternity, a man does not have the standing to seek parental responsibilities or parenting time with the child.
A family law attorney representing the mother will generally file a paternity action to secure child support. This is a requirement for receiving child support as the court must establish legal paternity before it can order a man to make support payments.
Establishing Legal Paternity in Illinois
The law in Illinois provides several methods by which a father may establish his paternity. A man is considered the to be the legal father of the child in question if:
- When the child was conceived or born, the man was married to the child's mother;
- Following the birth of the child, the man was legally married to the child’s mother and is recorded on the birth certificate, with his written consent, as the father;
- An Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services administrative review or court decree has established paternity; or
- A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity was completed and signed by both parents.
Establishing legal paternity is the first step in securing visitation rights or requesting child support. If you are involved in a paternity action or are considering filing one, an experienced Geneva family law attorney can help you explore your various options. Call 630-232-9700 to schedule a confidential consultation at The Law Offices of Douglas B. Warlick & Associates today.