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How to Establish Paternity in Illinois

When a child is born to a husband and wife, the law presumes that the husband is the father. But if the parents are not married or in a civil union when the child is born, the father is not legally considered a parent. The situation becomes even more complicated if the child is born to a married couple, but a third party claims paternity.

Establishing paternity is crucial for a father who wants custody or visitation rights and for a mother who wants child support. Here is what you need to know about establishing paternity in Illinois.

When Parentage Is Presumed

The law presumes that a man is a child’s father under the following conditions:

  • He and the child’s mother are married, in a civil union or in a substantially similar legal relationship” when the child is born.
  • He and the child’s mother were married, in a civil union or in a substantially similar legal relationship within 300 days of the child’s birth and the relationship ended because of death or divorce. This is true even if the parties thought they had entered into a legal relationship and it turns out that the relationship was invalid.
  • He and the child’s mother get married or enter into a civil union or a substantially similar legal relationship after the child’s birth and he consents to be named as the father on the child’s birth certificate.

When Paternity Must Be Established

There are three ways to establish paternity in Illinois:

  1. Both parents sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP). This is a legal document that must be signed by both parents and submitted to the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services. There must also be witnesses present. While the VAP may be completed at any time, the easiest time and place to do it is in the hospital after your child is born.

However, do not sign the VAP if there is any uncertainty who the biological father is. Consider taking a paternity test first.

  1. Go to court. If the parties cannot agree on parentage they can always take their claims to court. After considering the evidence the court will issue an order of paternity declaring the child’s legal father. In addition to establishing paternity, the court may also determine child support, custody and visitation rights. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the litigation process.

  1. Go before the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. A DHFS hearing is another dispute resolution method. The agency’s child support services may issue an administrative paternity order but it does not have the legal authority to determine custody or visitation. Those disputes must be resolved in court.

Let Us Help You Today

The talented Naperville family law attorneys at the Roscich & Martel Law Firm, LLC, can help you establish paternity and claim your parental rights as a father or your right to child support as a mother. Reach out to us today for assistance with your case.