When children are born out of wedlock in Illinois, establishing paternity is required to ensure a father’s rights and the rights of his children are protected. Illinois law assumes paternity in families where the parents are married, but it does not when the father and mother are not married. Without established paternity, a child’s rights to a father’s property and other benefits, and the father’s parental rights and privileges, can be at risk.
How to Establish Paternity in Illinois
Illinois law offers two ways for fathers to establish legal paternity. The first is the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP). This document is signed by both parents. Hospitals use the document to name the father on the birth certificate. This is a legally binding agreement that protects the father’s rights to parent the child, and a family law attorney can advise about whether signing a VAP is a good decision.
The second way to establish paternity is with a Court Order of Paternity. This is a certified court form that states the father of the child when the father is not available to sign the VAP. Someone who is named on a Court Order of Paternity can request DNA testing to prove whether he is the father since he did not voluntarily sign this document.
Why Is Establishing Paternity Important?
By establishing paternity, a family can place the father’s name correctly on a baby’s birth certificate so the child has access to that information in the future. It also ensures that the child is able to receive medical benefits, financial benefits, and parenting time from the father.
Establishing paternity also protects the father’s rights. The father can petition the court to award parenting time. The father can also ask for permission to help make decisions involving the child, such as decisions about education, religious instruction, and medical care.
If the mother tries to put the child up for adoption or take the child away from the home state, having paternity established gives the father the right to fight these decisions. Paternity can also protect the father from losing parenting rights should the mother’s new spouse wish to adopt the child after marriage. Often these actions do require the help of an attorney, but having paternity established strengthens any case.