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Wheaton family law attorneysIn 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.

VAP Basics

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parents understand that the form is the equivalent of courtroom adjudication and that, once signed, it can only be rescinded or challenged in very limited circumstances.

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Wheaton family law attorneyIn 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.

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Wheaton family law attorneysThere are two instances when child support is awarded to parents in Illinois: when parents get divorced or when unmarried parents have a child together. If you are an unmarried parent or soon will be, you may be wondering how you can receive support payments from your child’s other parent. If the child’s biological father has not been officially named the legal father of the child, you will have to establish parentage through the court before requesting child support.

How to Establish Paternity in Illinois

When a married couple has a baby, Illinois law assumes that the husband of the woman who gave birth to the child is the father. However, when an unmarried woman gives birth, there is no assumption of paternity. Parentage can be established through one of several ways. If neither party doubts the paternity of the child, the two parents can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP). This document allows the father to be named on the birth certificate but does not address issues of child support, parenting time, or allocation of parental responsibilities. Another method for establishing parentage is for either parent to file a Petition to Establish Parentage through the county court and participate in the subsequent proceedings. Lastly, parents may seek an Administrative Paternity Order to be established and entered by Healthcare and Family Services’ Child Support Services.

How Will Child Support Amounts Be Decided?

Once legal parentage is established, child support matters can be decided. Since July 1, 2017, Illinois courts have made child support decisions based on an "income shares" model. Under this model, each parent’s income in relation to the parents’ combined income is used to calculate a fair and reasonable child support amount. Factors such as healthcare, parenting time (visitation), and other elements may influence the final child support obligation, but the base child support obligation is mostly decided based on the combined net income of both parents. A parent who wishes to change a child support order must file a petition for modification of the child support order though the county court. Generally, only a major change in financial circumstances, employment, or disability will justify a modification to an established child support order.

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DuPage County parentage lawyersUnder Illinois state law, every child has the right to receive emotional, physical, mental, and financial support from both parents. Fathers also have the right to seek parenting time with their biological children, regardless of the status of their relationship with the child's natural mother. But when a child is born to unmarried parents, legal paternity must be established before any rights can be enforced. If you are an unmarried parent, or suspected of being the father of a child, understanding what parentage is and how it can be established is very important.

What is Parentage?

When children are born to married parents, there is little question about their parentage, or the identity of their father. If the child's parents later divorce, the father is legally able to seek parenting time with the child and has an obligation to support the child. However, children who are born to unmarried parents do not have this same built-in parentage. While the tie to their mother is automatic, the paternity (biological tie to the father) must be legally established before it can be considered valid.

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child support, child visitation, establish child support, establishing paternity, paternity, separating unwed couples, Wheaton paternity attorneyHaving 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:

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