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DuPage County paternity lawyerIn most cases in which a child is born to unwed parents in Illinois, only the mother is a legal parent of the child and only her name will automatically appear on the child’s birth certificate. Actions must be taken by one or both parents to establish legal paternity for the child’s father. Even if you are no longer married or unsure of the future of your relationship, there are benefits both to the father and to the child to establishing a legal parent-child relationship.

Benefits to the Father and the Child for Establishing Paternity in Illinois

The benefits of a positive relationship between a father and a child are well established. However, there are certain legal benefits that each is entitled to with legally recognized paternity.

Benefits to the child include:

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Posted on in Paternity

DuPage County Paternity LawyerIt is simple fact that every child has a biological mother and a biological father. Whether the child was conceived through assisted reproductive technology like surrogacy, adopted, or conceived naturally, there are two biological parents. However, being a biological parent does not mean that you are your child’s legal parent as well–nor does being a child’s legal parent mean that you must be a biological parent. Parentage issues can be quite complicated, but establishing parentage may or may not be. Illinois is a rather progressive state when it comes to parentage issues. If you have concerns about establishing that you are your child’s legal parent, a family law attorney may be able to help. 

Why is Legal Parentage Important?

Legal parentage opens up a lot of doors both for the parents and for the child. A second legal parent must be established before the custodial parent can pursue child support. A person must be legally established as a child’s parent before they can pursue any type of joint custody arrangement that allows them to spend time with the child. 

Even for couples who are happily raising a child together, making sure that both are established as the child’s legal parents is the wise thing to do. Should the couple ever split, the non-established parent may have a very difficult time getting a court order that allows them to continue acting as a parent. 

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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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