Unless the parents of a newborn child were legally recognized as a couple at the time of that child's birth, the state of Illinois requires the parents to establish "paternity" to help determine who the father of the child is.
In this context, Paternity is the legal establishment of a man being the biological father of a child. It is important because it determines what type of benefits, if any, that man's child becomes eligible for later in life. Protections, such as inheritance, health insurance benefits, and Social Security benefits, are typically only available to a child who has an established father-child relationship based on the outcome of a paternity test.
Paternity also plays a huge part in determining child support responsibilities and can decide if a "father" has parenting time rights in the state.
When Is Paternity Assumed?
Paternity is only assumed when the parents of a child are married or in a civil union when the child is born. Illinois family law does not assume fatherhood in any other instance, even if the parents are dating, living together, or even planning to be married soon.
How Can I Establish Paternity for My Child in Illinois?
Parents in Illinois have three ways of establishing Paternity:
#1: Both unwed parents can fill out and sign a legal document known as a "Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity" or "VAP." A witness needs to watch the parents sign the VAP, and then the parents must submit the VAP to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services for official filing.
#2: In a formal court setting, a judge enters an order legally declaring the presumed father to be the child's legal father.
#3: The Department of Healthcare and Family Services enters an Administrative Paternity Order.
As the Mother of My Child, Should I Sign a VAP If I'm Uncertain Who the Father Is?
No. Parents should never sign the VAP form unless they are certain who the child's parents are. In this situation, you should undergo genetic paternity testing to determine the identity of your child's father.
What Should I Do If I Need Help with a Paternity Hearing or Am Unsure How to Establish Paternity?
Our Schaumburg family lawyer, Mr. Robert Kaplan, can assist you in all aspects of your paternity case in Illinois. Each of our potential clients is entitled to a free initial consultation, so please call us today at (847) 845-9477 to schedule yours!