Paternity Issues Involving Children Born to Separating Unwed Couples
Having children is one of life's major decisions. Whether a couple decides to have a child before or after marriage, there are issues that can arise if the couple decides to later separate. These issues usually revolve around visitation, child custody and child support. Generally, these issues are handled the same as a couple going through divorce. However, there may be some complications in resolving these issues when it comes to unwed parents, depending on the couple's relationship.Establishing Paternity
The first step to dealing with custody and visitation of children born to an unwed couple is to determine paternity of the child. There are three ways in which paternity can be established in Illinois. Some of these ways may include a DNA test. Paternity can be established by:
- The biological parents completing and signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP);
- An Administrative Paternity Order; or
- A court order entered by a judge.
The VAP is usually signed at the hospital at the time the child is born and leads to the biological dad being listed on the child's birth certificate.
Child Support and Visitation
Once paternity is established, it does not matter that the couple is not married. Both parents have equal rights and each can apply to have visitation with the child. Unless visitation is deemed to endanger the child's mental, physical, moral or emotional health, a court will most likely award visitation to the non-custodial parent.
Additionally, the establishment of paternity can lead to establishing child support payments through the courts. This is the best way for the parties to handle child support to avoid disagreements later. Only payments made pursuant to a court order count towards amounts characterized as child support. If possible, the non-custodial parent should ensure that the child support is established early to avoid having to pay large back support later on.
Signing Away Paternal Rights
If the mother decides to get remarried in the future, she and her new husband may want to ensure that their new blended family has legal rights through adoption. For adoption to happen, the biological father has to sign away his paternal rights. In other cases, a father may choose to terminate rights because he cannot or does not want to keep paying child support. A biological father can either terminate parental rights voluntarily or a biological father may have his rights involuntary terminated by a court.
For voluntary termination, there has to be someone else ready to step up to take over for the father. This would be the case in an adoption. The father cannot walk away voluntarily and leave the mother without support. Involuntary termination happens mainly in cases of child abuse, where terminating rights would protect the child. For fathers who want to preserve their rights, they can register with the Illinois Putative Father Registry to ensure that they receive notice in the case of adoption.
Contact an Illinois Attorney
If you want to establish paternity of a child or have related issues, speak with an experienced attorney to help guide you through the process. Contact MKFM Law for a free consultation today.