According to national statistics, there are approximately 1.5 million babies born each year to unmarried women. Although in many of these families the father immediately acknowledges paternity and his name is added to the birth certificate, there are also thousands of other families where one of the parents—either the mother or father—denies paternity.
There are several important reasons why paternity should always be legally established and an experienced family law attorney can discuss what course of action is the best for your particular situation.
Under the Illinois Parentage Act of 2015, the state recognizes that every child is entitled to have the emotional, financial, mental, and physical support of his or her parents. The law states that regardless of the legal relationship between the two parents, the child has the right to a parent-child relationship with both of the parents, including support obligations. This right also applies even if one or both of the parents are minors.
There are several ways that paternity can be established under Illinois law. The state legally considers a man the natural father of a child if he and the mother were married when the child was born or they were married when the child was conceived. He is also legally considered the natural father if he and the mother marry after the child’s birth and his name is added to the birth certificate.
The state will also consider a man the natural father if he and the mother have signed an acknowledgement of paternity.
Unfortunately, there is not always an agreement to paternity. Either the natural father refuses to acknowledge he is the father or the mother refuses to acknowledge the individual who is the natural father.
Either scenario not only has the potential to harm the child emotionally, by denying him or her the opportunity at a father/child relationship, but the child can also be harmed financially. If paternity is not legally established, then the father is not legally required to provide financial support. The child also does not have any legal right to the father’s estate or potential Social Security benefits (i.e. if the father should become disabled or pass away when the child is still a minor).
If an agreement cannot be made between the parents, then the courts can legally declare paternity. A paternity action may be brought forward by:
- The mother;
- A pregnant woman;
- The man claiming to be the natural father;
- The Department of Health and Family Services (if the agency is providing financial support for the child);
- Other public agencies, or people, who have legal custody of the child or providing financial support to the child; and
- The child.
Once the claim has been filed, the court will order the mother, father, and child to submit to DNA testing. If there is a refusal by either party to take the test, the court can rule against that person and establish paternity without the test.
If you are involved in a paternity dispute, contact a skilled DuPage County family law attorney to find out your legal options. Call Roscich & Martel Law Firm, LLC at (630) 793-6337 to schedule your confidential consultation today.