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The Importance of Establishing Parentage in Illinois

St. Charles Family Law Firm

Kane County Family AttorneyWhen a child is born to a married or recently divorced mother, the mother's husband or former husband is presumed to be the child's father. He automatically becomes the child's legal parent, which means that he has the same legal rights regarding the child that the child's mother has. But not all children are born to married or recently divorced mothers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40.2 percent of babies born in the United States are born to mothers who are not married. In this type of situation, the child's father must establish his paternity in order to be legally considered the child's parent.

Failing to establish a child's paternity can make it difficult for the father to have a relationship with the child if his relationship with the child's mother ends because if he is not a legal parent, he cannot work with the court to establish a parenting time schedule or determine his parental responsibilities. It can become necessary to work with an experienced Illinois family lawyer to establish paternity and gain these rights. Although the term “paternity” is often used colloquially, Illinois law now uses the term “parentage” because it can refer to an individual of either gender.

How Can I Establish my Child's Parentage?

Establishing a child's parentage can be a fairly straightforward process. If both parents agree that a particular individual is a child's parent, they can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form. This can be signed in the hospital shortly after the child's birth.

If the child's parents do not agree about the child's parentage, the issue may need to be settled in court. To establish your parentage in court, you need to provide proof that you are the child's parent, which may require a DNA test.

Parents can also determine a child's parentage through a hearing with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS). This type of hearing can only establish parentage, which can be used to file a child support order. It cannot establish parenting time or parental responsibilities.

What Happens If I Do Not Establish my Child's Parentage?

If you are not your child's biological mother, failing to establish your child's paternity means you do not have a legal link to your child. This means that you cannot seek parenting time with him or her, you cannot establish parental responsibilities for him or her, and you cannot seek or be required to pay child support for him or her.

Changes to Paternity in the Illinois Parentage Act of 2015

In 2015, the Illinois Parentage Act was modified to have gender-inclusive language regarding a child's parentage. It also changed the circumstances under which an alleged parent could challenge his or her allegation of parentage.

Today, an individual is legally a child's parent if he or she meets any of the following:

  • The child was born while the individual was married to or in a civil union with the child's mother;
  • The child was born within 300 days of the individual's divorce or dissolution of the civil union with the child's mother;
  • The individual married or entered a civil union with the child's mother after the child was born and put his or her name on the child's birth certificate; or
  • The child was born within 300 days of an annulment of an invalid marriage or civil union between the mother and the other individual.

The new law recognizes that DNA is only one part of the relationship between a parent and child. Because of this, the court may deny an individual's motion for a DNA test to determine if he or she is biologically related to a child if it feels such a test would not be in the child's best interest. A parent also may rebut any presumption of parentage that he or she feels is incorrect.

Work with an Experienced Kane County Family Lawyer

If you are not married and currently pregnant, have a partner who is pregnant, or you are a new parent, it is critical that you establish your child's parentage when he or she is born. Otherwise, you can face numerous legal difficulties later in your child's life with regard to establishing a parenting time arrangement, determining your parental responsibilities, and adding him or her as a dependent on your health insurance. Establishing a child's parentage early in his or her life benefits all members of the child's family. To learn more about establishing parentage and other Illinois family law matters, schedule your initial consultation with a member of the experienced team of Kane County family lawyers at Goostree Law Group.

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