Any good father wants to be a presence in their child’s life. Scientifically, we’ve seen lots of studies that show that children perform better academically and develop quicker when they grow up with a father figure. But in order to fill that role in your child’s life, you need to have a father’s rights and these can only be given by establishing paternity.

To learn more about how father’s rights work in Illinois, we’ll first look at what we mean by the term “fathers’ rights.” Next, we’ll look at the few different ways in which paternity can be established. Establishing paternity can be a quick or a long process, as we’ll discuss below. Finally, we’ll look at how paternity can be challenged should the need arise.

What Are a Father’s Rights in Illinois?

It is important to establish just what is meant by a father’s rights here in Illinois so as to eliminate confusion. This is because what a father’s rights cover isn’t necessarily what somebody would assume them to be. In particular, it might come as a surprise to learn what isn’t covered by a father’s rights.

Illinois recognizes that children have a right to the mental, physical, monetary, and emotional support of their parents. Likewise, parents have a right to a relationship with their children. Of course, this right can be taken away if the parent acts in a horrible manner; few would argue that a parent who abuses their children should keep their rights to raise them.

Parents do not need to be married in order for them both to have a right to a relationship with their children. That said, being married does certainly speed up the process of establishing paternity and therefore gaining a father’s rights.

One thing that is in no way covered by a father’s, or a mother’s, rights is custody and child support. Only a judge can determine who should have custody of the child, should the parents be in disagreement about it. The judge will make the decision on who gets custody based on the best interests of the child, which means that they’ll consider many different factors in coming up with their choice.

A lot of people think that a judge will always side with the mother of the child, but this is not the case. If it is in the child’s best interest that the father have custody, then that is what will happen.

Paternity must first be established in order to determine a father’s rights.

How is Paternity Established in Illinois?

There are a few ways in which paternity is established in Illinois. The simplest and quickest is that of presumed paternity. This occurs when the child is born to a married couple. This means that a father’s rights would go into effect immediately and they would stay in effect unless lost or unless the paternity was challenged and defeated.

However, you’re unlikely to be reading about this topic if you are bringing a child into a happy marriage. Let’s look at what other ways there are to establish paternity in Illinois to see how it is done and how long they take:

  • Getting married after the child is born
  • Signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP)
  • Bringing a paternity action to the court
  • Receiving a paternity order issued by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services

The easiest and quickest of these is to sign a VAP. When you go with your girlfriend to see the birth of your child, the medical staff should provide you with a VAP form. After reading and signing the form in the presence of a witness, the father’s name will then get put on the child’s birth certificate. This form will give you a father’s rights. But it should be noted that signing the form will waive your rights to genetic testing.

Marrying after the child is born is another method that can be quick. However, it could also take a long time. It really depends on how you and the mother of your child want to go about it. If you want a big fancy wedding, it will probably take a while. But if you just want to get legally married then that could be handled in an afternoon.

The longest way is through filing a paternity action. This approach can also be used to challenge paternity.

Can Paternity Be Challenged in Illinois?

A paternity action can be brought before the courts by the child’s mother, any male who believes themselves to be the father, any male that is identified as the child’s father, the child themselves (with the help of legal representatives), or a government agency that has custody of the child.

Imagine that you believe yourself to be the father of a child but you and the mother had a falling out and she has decided not to acknowledge your paternity by signing a VAP. You want to be a part of your child’s life. So, as a male who believes himself to be the father of the child, you can file a paternity action to establish it.

In this same scenario, imagine that the mother had started dating a new man before the birth. She and her new partner sign the VAP and now he is recognized as the father. You can challenge his paternity and find out for sure who the father is.

But there are also situations where you may be the one to bring the paternity suit. If you learn something that makes you doubt your paternity, you have a two-year window to challenge your own paternity. An example of when this would be appropriate is after you learn that the mother of the child cheated on you, so you are no longer sure if you are the father.

It will be up to a judge to determine who the biological and legal father of the child is. Of the methods for determining paternity, this is almost always the longest.

Should I Talk to a Lawyer?

A lawyer can be a great boon in dealing with the legal aspects of determining paternity. Reach out to The Law Offices of Robert Buchanan if you are looking for legal advice and support in this process.