Children who have been born to parents who have not married do not legally have a father until or unless paternity is established. To establish a child’s paternity in or near the Chicago area, the first step is contacting – and discussing the matter with – a Chicago paternity attorney.

How is a child’s paternity determined in Illinois? If you are the father, what does it take to prove that your child is really yours? If you are the mother, what can you do to prove who is the father? If you have no child, what can you do if you are wrongly accused of being someone’s father?

If you will continue to read this brief overview of paternity and the law in Illinois, these questions are about to be answered, and you will also learn what steps to take if you are a Chicago-area parent (or even if you are not a parent) who becomes involved in a paternity case.

What Is the Definition of Paternity?

When a married couple has a child, Illinois law presumes that the mother’s husband is the legal father. Unwed mothers automatically have child custody rights, but unwed mothers cannot seek child support until and unless the paternity of a child has been legally established.

And child support may not be the sole reason why unmarried mothers should establish paternity. Mothers may also need a father’s medical records or a father’s insurance or government benefits. Paternity is established legally when a court identifies one person as a child’s father.

Should you need to establish paternity – yours or another person’s – or should you have to prove that you are not a child’s father, you may find it a complicated and daunting task. You will need to be advised and represented by the right Chicago paternity lawyer from the very beginning.

Why Should Paternity Be Established?

Why is establishing a child’s paternity so important? Because parents and children should both have healthy relationships with one another, and because both of a child’s parents are legally obligated to care for and support their child financially.

For mothers, establishing paternity means the financial responsibilities for her child are shared and the child’s financial security is enhanced. For fathers, paternity establishes their legal responsibilities and legal rights.

When paternity is legally established, the name of the father is placed on the child’s birth certificate, the father may seek visitations or child custody, and the father also has the right to be notified about an adoption or any other legal matter that may involve the child.

How Is Paternity Established in Illinois?

Under Illinois law, legal paternity is established in one of these four ways:

  1. the presumption of paternity by marriage
  2. a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP)
  3. an administrative paternity order (which may require DNA testing)
  4. a judicial paternity order (which may also require DNA testing)

The presumption of paternity by marriage includes children born within three hundred days of a divorce or separation. When an unwed mother marries after a child is born, and her spouse is the father, he should make sure that his paternity is indicated on the child’s birth certificate.

What Is a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity?

Unmarried parents in Illinois may establish paternity by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity or VAP – but only if they are both absolutely certain about who is the child’s father. Parents may sign a VAP when the child is born or may complete and submit it later.

At least one other adult must be a witness to the signing. Parents then submit the completed VAP to the Department of Health and Family Services. A Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity may establish paternity at any time before a child turns age 20.

Either party may contest a VAP by submitting a Rescission of Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity within sixty days of signing the VAP.

After sixty days, you will need to have an attorney file a Motion to Vacate the VAP with the court. There is a two-year deadline for contesting a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity by claiming duress, fraud, or a material mistake.

What Are Administrative and Judicial Paternity Orders?

Because fathers are legally obligated to support their children, the Illinois Division of Child Support Services (CSS) can seek and establish paternity with an Administrative Paternity Order, but first, CSS must establish a father’s paternity. CSS may order genetic testing if necessary.

And whenever the paternity of a child is disputed in Illinois, the court may be asked to determine the father’s identity. In any paternity matter in this state, you should be advised and represented by a Chicago paternity attorney whose legal practice focuses exclusively on family law.

When an attorney files a petition on behalf of a party that seeks to establish paternity, a hearing will be scheduled. Genetic testing may be ordered. When paternity is established, parents may agree to (or the court will order) arrangements for child custody, child support, and visitations.

How Should You Choose a Paternity Lawyer?

If someone claims you are the father of a child, and you are not – or you are not sure – you may request genetic testing to resolve the matter, but you should have a lawyer’s help. Matching an adult’s DNA with a child’s can confirm if the adult is the biological father with 99.9% certainty.

Family law in Illinois can change swiftly. Paternity cases are becoming more and more complicated. You must be represented by a family law attorney who stays on top of legal developments and who provides you with sound legal advice and effective representation.

Cases involving children are almost always highly-charged emotional cases, so if you are on either side of a child custody, child support, visitation, or paternity dispute, choose a Chicago paternity lawyer who regularly and exclusively handles matters of family law.

What Else Should You Know About Establishing Paternity?

In any legal matter that involves a child in Illinois, the best interests of the child will be an Illinois court’s highest priority. Nothing, of course, is more important than your children, your relationship with your children, and your rights as a parent.

To establish paternity or to take any legal action that concerns a child, you must have the right lawyer’s insights and advice from the beginning. If you have questions or concerns about paternity or any matter of family law, arrange at once to speak to a Chicago family law attorney.