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naperville paternity lawyerIn many cases, when a child is born, the identity of the parents is known. If a child’s mother is married, her spouse will be presumed to be the child’s legal parent. If a mother is unmarried, paternity may be established by submitting a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form. However, there may be some cases in which the identity of the child’s biological father is in doubt, or a person who is presumed to be a child’s father or who has signed a VAP may later find out that they are not the child’s biological father. In these cases, parents will need to understand the procedures that must be followed to dispute paternity.

Denial of Presumed Parentage

A man is presumed to be a child’s parent if he was married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth or if the couple was divorced or legally separated within 300 days before the child was born. If a presumed father believes that he is not the child’s biological father, he can sign a denial of parentage document. However, a denial of paternity will only be valid if the child’s biological father has signed a VAP and the presumed father has not previously signed a VAP or been adjudicated as the child’s father in family court.

Challenging a VAP

In some cases, a man who believes he is a child’s father may voluntarily acknowledge paternity, only to learn at a later date that someone else is the biological father. Within 60 days after signing a VAP, a person may rescind their voluntary acknowledgment by signing a Rescission of Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity and submitting it in family court. After the 60-day period, a person will need to challenge a VAP in court, and they will need to do so within two years after the VAP was signed.

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Naperville IL paternity attorneyFor many parents, the identity of a child’s father is not in question. In fact, under Illinois law, a mother’s spouse is presumed to be her child’s legal parent, as long as the child was born during the couple’s marriage or within 300 days after the couple was separated, got divorced, or one partner died. However, this means that if a child is born while a couple is unmarried, or if a situation does not meet the criteria described above, paternity will need to be established to ensure that the father will be recognized as the child’s legal parent. Paternity may also need to be addressed if the identity of a child’s father is in doubt or is known to be someone other than the mother’s spouse.

Establishing Paternity in Illinois

The simplest and most common way of establishing paternity is for both parents to fill out and sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) form, which can be done at any time after their child is born. This form can be provided by a hospital, and it is also available on the website of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, at a local county clerk’s office, and other sources. By filling out this form, the parents will both recognize that a man is the child’s father. This will allow him to be listed on the child’s birth certificate, and he will have full parental rights regarding the child.

Paternity can also be voluntarily acknowledged if the biological father is a person other than the child’s presumed parent. In these cases, the presumed father may submit a Denial of Parentage form, and the biological parents may submit a VAP. The mother, the presumed father, or the child may also submit a petition in court to declare the nonexistence of the parent-child relationship. This type of legal action must be initiated within two years after the petitioner knew or should have known the facts of the case. For example, a presumed father must file this type of petition within two years after he first discovers that he is not a child’s biological father.

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Disproving Paternity Does Not Always Terminate Parental ObligationsIllinois presumes that the husband is the legal father to any child conceived or born during the marriage. The legal father has a right to parental responsibilities and an obligation to contribute to child support in the event of a divorce. The presumed father can declare the non-existence of a parent-child relationship if he learns that he is not the biological father. If the court grants the action, the man can ask to terminate his legal obligations to the child. However, terminating your parental responsibilities takes more than claiming that the child is not yours.

Time Limit

You must file a petition to terminate your paternity within two years of learning that you may not be the father. The two-year time limit can start at any point, as long as you had no reason to doubt your paternity before learning the relevant facts. For instance, an Illinois court recently approved a man’s petition to terminate his parental obligations when his former wife told him that he was not the father of their 12-year-old daughter. A DNA test proved this to be true, and, after hearing testimony, the court believed that the man had not previously known that he was not the father.

DNA Testing

A genetic test is the surest way to determine whether you are the biological father of a child. Illinois law instructs courts to grant DNA testing when either parent or child requests it. However, the court has the right to deny a DNA test if it believes that it is against the best interest of the child for reasons such as:

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Posted on in Paternity

Parental Rights Without MarriageYou do not need to plan on marriage in order for family law to be useful. Cohabiting couples share their lives in many of the same ways as those who marry. This includes having children, which will tie the two people together even if they separate. A co-parent who never married is responsible for child support payments if the couple lives apart. However, there are benefits to being married parents that unmarried parents do not automatically receive. Unmarried couples must proactively use family law to gain equal rights as parents.

Establishing Parentage

When a married woman has a child, her husband is assumed to be the father. A biological father who is not married to the mother must identify himself as the father in order to have paternal rights. The father can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form immediately after the child’s birth. In some situations, only one person is the biological parent. The other partner can apply for adoption to become a legal parent. Establishing parentage grants several rights regarding the child, including:

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Posted on in Paternity

Contesting Your Paternity of a ChildEstablishing paternity after a child is born is important for all parties involved. The father gains the allocation of parental responsibilities. If the parents are not together, the mother can collect child support from the father. The child knows who his or her father is and can decide whether to pursue a relationship later in life. The father is most often the mother’s current or most recent romantic partner, but there are exceptions. A presumed father who believes he is not the biological father must make a choice: 

  • If no one else claims paternity, he can accept responsibility as the child’s legal father; or
  • He can deny his paternity, which may require going to court.

Unmarried Men

If your current or former girlfriend has a child out of wedlock, you can legally establish yourself as the father by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. However, you should wait on signing the document if you have a reasonable doubt that you are the father. Once you have signed a VAP, you have 60 days to cancel it. After that, a court will rescind your paternity only if you can prove you signed the document under fraudulent circumstances or duress. If you refuse to sign a VAP, the mother may take you to court to establish paternity. The court will determine whether you are the father and what parental responsibilities and obligations to assign to you.

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