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Do I Need to Establish Paternity?

Posted on in Paternity

IL family lawyerQuestions or disputes over paternity are very common, especially when the parents of a child have already separated or never had a formal relationship in the first place. Prospective mothers, who may be facing pregnancy and childbirth without a partner, are often torn between the benefits of establishing paternity and the drawbacks of establishing a permanent legal relationship between a child and a man whom she may not trust or know very well - or worse, that she fears.

If you are pregnant or recently gave birth to a child and are wondering whether the benefits of establishing paternity for your little one outweigh the potential risks, it is important to speak with an Illinois paternity lawyer who can help you explore your options and make an informed decision. If you do decide to move forward with a paternity suit, your attorney can help you manage that so you do not have to navigate the complex Illinois family court system alone.

What Are the Benefits of Establishing Paternity?

There are a few well-known reasons that both a mother and child can benefit from paternity. The first and perhaps most obvious is that the mother has the potential support of another adult when raising the child. Childrearing is a difficult and emotionally draining task for one parent to do on their own; if you expect that your child’s father would be willing to participate in raising your child, you may find that having another adult in the picture could make a big difference in terms of the ease and practicality of raising your loved one.

shutterstock_1130350775.jpgWhen a child’s parents are married, there is usually no question about the identity of the child’s father, and both parents will have the legal rights and obligations that come with parenthood. However, when a child is born to unmarried parents, additional steps will need to be taken to legally establish paternity. In many cases, this is done by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) form. When doing so, parents will need to understand their rights and requirements, and they may also need to address other related legal issues.

Issues That May Affect a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity

Until paternity is established, a father may not be recognized as a child’s legal parent. If the parents are in agreement that a man is the child’s biological father, they can sign and submit a VAP form together. This form may be provided at the hospital where a child is born, but it is also available from other state and local government offices, such as a county clerk, and it may be signed at any time after a child is born. After a father is recognized as a legal parent, he will have the right to share in child custody and parenting time, and he will have an obligation to provide child support

A VAP form will usually state that a child does not have a presumed parent. A presumed parent may include the mother’s spouse or an ex-spouse who terminated their marriage with the mother within 300 days before the child was born. If a child has a presumed parent, a VAP must state the name of that person, and the presumed parent will need to sign and submit a denial of parentage.

Illinois paternity attorney, Illinois family law attorney,

Originally published: May 16, 2016 -- Updated: August 12, 2021

UPDATE: It is important for fathers to understand that attempting to avoid responsibility for a child by refusing to sign the birth certificate or acknowledge fatherhood is usually not a good strategy. Even if a person did not want to have a child and does not want to be involved in the child’s life, they may still bear some responsibility for ensuring that the child’s needs will be met.

Kane County paternity lawyerAny time parents have a child and are not legally married, they have a number of issues to address when it comes to the child’s rights and future. Establishing legal paternity in the state of Illinois is one of the first and most critical steps. Doing so is important for a number of reasons, particularly because it allows parents to protect their children and their own rights as a parent. Without legal paternity, a father’s rights are especially at risk.

How Legal Paternity Can Benefit You and Your Child

While there are other ways to establish legal paternity in Illinois, the easiest way is for both parents to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, also called a VAP. This is typically done right at the hospital, as soon as the child is born. If one or both parents are unavailable at the time of birth to sign the form, however, the VAP can be completed and submitted on a later date. In cases where there is apprehension or doubt about signing a VAP, paternity can also be established by means of an Administrative Paternity Order from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services or an Order of Paternity issued by a judge.

Some important ways the father and child will benefit from establishing legal paternity include the following:

Why Determining Paternity Is Important for the Father, Mother, and ChildIllinois does not have an automatic presumption of paternity when a child is born out of wedlock. Normally, the husband of the mother is presumed to be the father unless it is proven than someone else is the father. An unmarried father can still claim his legal parental status by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form after the child’s birth. When there is a disagreement about who the father is, the mother or potential father may need to go to court to prove paternity. A paternity test is usually the definitive way to determine whether a child is related to the father. Why is it important to identify the father of a child? There are good reasons for each party involved.

The Father

A father may want to be part of his child’s life, even if he is not in a relationship with the mother. The best way he can ensure that it will happen is by establishing paternity. As the legal father to the child, he would have a right to parenting time, as long as the child would not be in danger with him. The father could also claim responsibility for the child on a full-time basis if the mother dies, is deemed unfit, or wants to give the child up for adoption.

The Mother

It is difficult for a single mother to support a child, and she may want the biological father to take responsibility for their child. Establishing paternity would make the father responsible for paying child support to cover child-related expenses. The mother may also want access to the father’s family medical history, which the child’s pediatrician could reference to determine whether the child may be at risk for certain medical conditions.

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