Establishing Legal Parentage
Paternity can be established in a number of different ways under Illinois law. Establishing paternity is important because, once established, a court can allocate parental responsibilities (formerly known as custody), allocate parenting time, and order child support. The level of complexity in establishing paternity depends upon the particular circumstances of the individuals involved.
Under Illinois law, paternity is established through any of the following means:
- Marriage to or civil union with a child's biological mother at the time of birth or within 300 days prior to the child being born;
- Marriage to the biological mother after birth and the father is listed on the child's birth certificate;
- Court order of parentage or Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) administrative order of parentage; or
- Man and a mother of a child signed and filed a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” (VAP) form.
A mother, any person claiming to be the parent of a child, or the child can petition the court to establish legal parentage. In addition, DHFS can also bring an action to establish paternity. In some cases, as an alternative to traditional court, DHFS will hold an administrative hearing to establish paternity. These administrative hearings are presided over by a hearing officer instead of a judge. An administrative order has the same effect as a court order and can include order for payment of child support. However, DHFS administrative orders typically do not include allocation of parenting time or decision making authority.
It is important to be aware that there are time limits on establishing parentage. For example, if a child has a presumed parent, which occurs if the mother of the child was married to another person at the time the child was born, or within 300 days prior to birth, a person claiming to be the child's parent has two years from the date he or she should have known of the relevant facts to begin a parentage case.
In cases where a mother and a man signed and filed the VAP form, an individual claiming to be the child's parent has two years from the effective date of the VAP. Similarly, if legal parentage was established by court order, another individual claiming to be the child's parent has two years from the date of the order.
If a person fathers a child outside of marriage and fails to register with the Putative Father Registry within 30 days of the child's birth, the child can be placed for adoption without the individual's permission or knowledge. If adopted, the father permanently loses all rights to the child. However, if the person registers, he will receive notification of any pending adoption and will have 30 days from that date to establish parentage. In addition, not establishing parentage may result in a child not being able to inherit from his or her father without a will. It can also make the child ineligible to receive benefits, such as Social Security, from his or her father.
Recent Changes to the Law
It is also important to understand the recent changes to Illinois parentage law that were enacted on January 1, 2016 as a result of the Illinois Parentage Act of 2015. Most importantly, the new Act is gender-neutral, recognizing that a child may have parents of one gender. In addition, the law makes modifications to the presumption of paternity, all of which are rebuttable. If you have further questions about the changes to the law, it is in your best interest to reach out to an attorney for assistance.
If you are interested in beginning the process to establish legal paternity, please contact a skilled Illinois family law attorney today. At MKFM Law, our firm would be happy to provide you with the information and representation you need to establish and secure your legal rights. Call 630-665-7300 today to schedule your consultation.