The Power of a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP)
In the state of Illinois, the legal rights of parents are based upon the recognition of their relationship with their children. For a mother, obviously, the presumption of a legal relationship is usually very simple. For a father, however, it may not be so easy, particularly if he is not married to the mother of the child. While paternity tests and court proceedings may sometimes be required in more complicated situations, such avenues can usually be avoided by means of a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, or VAP.
Under Illinois law, a VAP can be used to establish the legal parent-child relationship between a man and his son or daughter. It does not require genetic testing, court adjudication, or any other outside influences. Instead, the VAP is, as its name implies, a voluntary acceptance of parental rights and responsibilities.
To be considered valid, the VAP must be signed or otherwise authenticated by both the mother and the man seeking to establish paternity. It must also specifically reference the child regarding whom the man wishes to establish parental rights. The signing or authentication of the form must also be witnessed. A new law set to take effect in 2016 also requires the VAP to ensure the signing parents understand that the form is the equivalent of courtroom adjudication and that, once signed, it can only be rescinded or challenged in very limited circumstances.
Where and When to Complete a VAP
The parents of a child may complete a VAP form at any time after the birth of the child, but are encouraged to do so as soon as possible. A VAP can be obtained from county clerks, health departments, many public aid offices, or online. However, hospitals also make the form available at the time of birth for those who need it. By signing it immediately, both parents’ names can be listed on the original birth certificate and the father’s legal rights regarding his child take effect right away.
If you are a father looking to establish paternity, or a mother seeking support from your child’s father, our team is ready, willing, and able to help. Contact an experienced Illinois family law attorney at the Law Offices of Douglas B. Warlick today. We will review your situation and work with you throughout the process. Your child deserves the support of both parents and we can assist you in obtaining it.