How Can I Become My Child’s Legal Father?
In Illinois, when a married couple has a baby, the husband of the woman who gave birth to the child is presumed to be the father of that child. However, when an unmarried couple has a child together, this presumption is not made. The process through which an unmarried father becomes the legal parent of a child is called “establishing paternity” or establishing parentage. If you wish to establish paternity of your child in Illinois, read on to learn how.
Benefits of Establishing Paternity
There are a multitude of benefits to establishing paternity. A father who has become the legal parent of his child gains the right to pursue parenting time, or visitation, with the child and develop a loving parent-child relationship. In some situations, the father may also be able to obtain legal custody or parental responsibilities of the child. While courts rarely take custody or parental responsibilities away from an established parent unless that parent has shown to be abusive, neglectful, or otherwise unfit to parent, a legal father could start by asking for a share of the parenting responsibilities.
Establishing paternity also ensures that the father is the first point of contact for the child if a tragedy occurred, such as the mother’s death or serious accident. Fathers who are established as the legal parent of their child are usually obligated to pay child support. If an unmarried mother wishes to pursue child support from the child’s father, he must be formally established as the child’s legal parent first.
Steps for Establishing Paternity in Illinois
In Illinois, there are three ways an unmarried father can establish paternity. First, the parents of the child can sign a document called a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP). These documents are usually available at the hospital and can be signed shortly after the child's birth. The document is then filed with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS). Signing a VAP is not appropriate if there is question as to the biological relationship between a child and a possible father.
Another way to establish paternity is for the mother to request a paternity order. The DHFS can pursue an Administrative Paternity Order in order to establish fatherhood. Lastly, the children’s parents can file an Order of Paternity through the courts to establish parentage.
Contact a DuPage County Family Law Attorney
At Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick & Mirabella, LLC, we understand that life does not always go according to plan. If you have concerns about parentage or paternity and need professional representation from an experienced Wheaton paternity lawyer, contact MKFM Law for help. Schedule a consultation today by calling 630-665-7300.