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Wheaton IL family law attorneyUnder Illinois law, if the biological parents of a child are not married (or in a legal civil union) at the time of their child’s birth, the biological father is not automatically considered to be the legal father, regardless of whether the parents live in the same home or if they plan to get married. Until paternity is established, the father will not have any parental rights or grounds to pursue custody. Fortunately, there are a few different ways for a man to become legally recognized as a child’s father.

Legal Presumption of Paternity

The legal relationship between a father and his child is known as “paternity.” When the mother of a child is married or in a civil union with a man at the time of the child’s birth, or within 300 days of the child’s birth, the law presumes that man to be the child’s father. This means that the man is recognized as having parental rights, and that he can petition for parenting time and parental responsibilities if he is no longer married to the child’s mother.

Establishing Paternity

When a man is not married to or in a civil union with the mother of his child within 300 days of the child’s birth, he will have to acknowledge or prove paternity to be considered the child’s father under the law. After paternity is established, a child may then have access to a variety of benefits, including:

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Wheaton family law attorneysWhether or not a child’s parents are married, the child often benefits from having both parents involved in his or her life. Many parents are also invested in securing and maintaining a relationship with their child. Unfortunately, for unmarried fathers, such a relationship is not necessarily guaranteed. However, there is a legal process that unmarried fathers can follow to secure the basic rights of parentage, along with an allocated share of parenting time and parental responsibilities in many cases.

Establishing Legal Paternity

Before an unmarried father can ask for parenting time or parental responsibilities, he will need to be recognized as the child’s legal parent. In Illinois, there is more than one way for a man to establish legal paternity. First, along with the child’s mother, he can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) and file it with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Provided that there are no objections or competing claims from other alleged fathers, this is usually the most simple method of securing parental rights.

If a VAP is not possible, perhaps because the mother is not in agreement or there is uncertainty regarding the child’s biological father, a man can petition the court for an adjudication of paternity. As part of this process, the man can submit to genetic testing and present other evidence and testimony to support his claim of fatherhood. If the results of the test show that the man is most likely the child’s father, the court can issue a judicial order of parentage, providing the father with basic rights and an obligation to contribute to child support.

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DuPage County family law attorneysDaytime television has popularized the idea of a DNA test to establish paternity to the point where you might think it is a necessary part of any legal paternity case. It is true that in Illinois, genetic testing is often used in cases involving uncertain or contested paternity, but there are other ways of establishing paternity that do not require testing at all. As either a father seeking to establish paternity or a mother who wants to ensure child support, you should be aware of when a DNA test is or is not required and what you can expect if a genetic test is part of your case.

Establishing Legal Paternity Without a DNA Test

In Illinois, there are a few situations in which legal paternity for an unmarried father can be established without the need for a DNA test. These include cases in which the father:

  • Was previously married to or in a civil union with the child’s mother within 300 days before the child’s birth. In this case, no further legal action is required to establish paternity.
  • Marries or enters into a civil union with the child’s mother after the child’s birth, if he has consented to being named as the father on the child’s birth certificate.
  • Completes and signs a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP), regardless of his current or prior relationship with the child’s mother. A VAP can be completed at the hospital upon the child’s birth or at any point after. The mother must also sign the VAP as well.

When is a DNA Test Used?

If you believe you may be the father of a child and are interested in being a part of the child’s life, you can request a DNA test to confirm your paternity. This may be important in cases where you or the mother simply have questions or when the mother is trying to contest your paternity.

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Illinois paternity attorneysWhen a child is born to unwed parents, the mother typically receives automatic rights at birth. The same cannot be said for unwed fathers. Instead, they must establish paternity in order to gain legal rights to the child. Learn more about this process in the following sections, including what it entails and what parental benefits you may receive. 

Establishing Paternity in Illinois 

Even when unwed parents reside together and plan to marry, fathers must acknowledge their paternal bond with the child to gain legal rights. While this added step may seem unfair and a hassle, the goal is to ensure that the obligation for financial support is assigned to the right person. 

Biological fathers who pursue this legal action can provide their child with certain financial benefits that can improve the child’s overall quality of life, including the right to receive:

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Illinois parentage lawyersAs a parent, you want the best for your child. To provide that, you need to ensure that their emotional and financial needs are met. In many cases, the establishment of paternity can help you in that quest - yet, this is not always the case. Learn more about the potential pros and cons of establishing paternity in Illinois, and discover how assistance from a seasoned family law attorney can help protect your child’s best interests, both now and long into the future. 

Understanding the Potential Benefits of Establishing Paternity

Regardless of whether you and your child’s father are currently involved in a relationship, your child deserves all that they have to offer. Sometimes, that involves you fostering a relationship between your child and their biological father. Other times, it means ensuring that your child’s financial needs are met - generally through financial support from the father. Unfortunately, many of the benefits that may be owed to you or your child (i.e. child support, military dependent benefits, health insurance, inheritances, and other similar benefits) can only be obtained if the biological father is legally named. For this to happen, you need to legally establish paternity, either through the hospital or through the courts. 

In the state of Illinois, there are three ways to do this: 

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