In the state of Illinois, the legal rights of parents are based upon the recognition of their relationship with their children. For a mother, obviously, the presumption of a legal relationship is usually very simple. For a father, however, it may not be so easy, particularly if he is not married to the mother of the child. While paternity tests and court proceedings may sometimes be required in more complicated situations, such avenues can usually be avoided by means of a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, or VAP.
Under Illinois law, a VAP can be used to establish the legal parent-child relationship between a man and his son or daughter. It does not require genetic testing, court adjudication, or any other outside influences. Instead, the VAP is, as its name implies, a voluntary acceptance of parental rights and responsibilities.
To be considered valid, the VAP must be signed or otherwise authenticated by both the mother and the man seeking to establish paternity. It must also specifically reference the child regarding whom the man wishes to establish parental rights. The signing or authentication of the form must also be witnessed. The law in Illinois also requires the VAP to include language that ensures the signing parents understand that the form is the equivalent of courtroom adjudication and that, once signed, it can only be rescinded or challenged in very limited circumstances....