The family unit is different today than it was 50 years ago. Back then, the majority of children were born to parents who were married. Societal norms have changed significantly since then. Today, it is perfectly acceptable for a child to be born to unmarried parents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 40.5% of babies in Illinois are born to unmarried mothers. Although unmarried parents are accepted, people need to take steps to protect their parental rights. An unmarried father will want to take a paternity test to protect the father’s rights.
How to Establish Paternity in Illinois
It is important for a father to establish paternity. There are four ways that paternity can be established in Illinois. It is best to utilize a paternity test to ensure accurate results.
Paternity by Marriage
Paternity is presumed when the parents are married at the time of the child’s birth. Presumption also extends to a period after the child is born, if the parents later marry. When a child is born to parents who are married to each other, the law presumes that the husband is the child’s biological father. There is no need for a paternity test. The husband’s name is entered on the child’s birth certificate.
Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP)
A man can sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form (VAP) to establish paternity. This form allows a father to acknowledge that he is the biological parent without having to take a paternity test. However, a father should be careful not to accept paternity unless he is completely certain he is the child’s father. Once a VAP is in place it can be much more difficult to change parentage. Therefore, it is usually best to take a paternity test to prove fatherhood. A VAP is submitted through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS).
Judicial Paternity Order
A judge can enter a paternity order following a paternity test. To begin the process, file a paternity case with the court. The court will set a hearing date to review the case. There are often many details and much evidence that both parties may need to provide. The court may order a paternity test if one has not already been completed. An attorney is helpful to guide the process and ensure that you have the representation you need for your case. Once the judge is certain of paternity, he or she will make an order that establishes the father. The parent then is entitled to father’s rights which usually include visitation with the child.
Administrative Paternity Order
An administrative paternity order is an order that is made through child services. When a mother wants to collect child support from the father, the father must first be established. This is done through a paternity test. Once they establish paternity they can ensure child support payments are made based on the specific details of the situation.
What if the Father’s Name is on the Birth Certificate?
The birth certificate has spaces for each of the child’s parents. Filling the name of the father in the birth certificate does not ensure paternity. In many instances, the parents are living together as a couple although they are not married at the time their child is born. Placing a father’s name on the birth certificate does not automatically establish paternity. The only way to establish paternity is voluntarily or through the legal process. Having your name listed on the birth certificate does not entitle you to father’s rights.
Taking a Paternity Test
DNA testing is the best way to prove paternity. A paternity test is a test that matches DNA between the father and child. A paternity test is easy to accomplish and is not invasive. It only takes a few minutes to provide DNA samples for testing. The samples are sent to a lab where they will be examined and the results will be provided. Paternity tests are extremely accurate, with an estimated accuracy rate of 99.9%. A paternity test is the easiest and most reliable way to determine whether you are the father of the child.
What are a Father’s Rights?
Biological parents have legal rights that include both physical and legal child custody options. A parent has the right to spend time with their child. In many cases, parents who are divorced or who are otherwise apart, both have equal rights to their children. Legal custody allows you to make decisions for a child while physical custody refers to where a child resides. Typically, a child will reside primarily with one parent and have regular visitation with the other. Parents can create a parenting plan that outlines the specific details of visitation including where the child will spend holidays and vacations.
Benefits of Establishing Paternity
A father should ask for a paternity test to establish the paternity of his child. There are numerous benefits to taking a paternity test to establish paternity. As a legal parent, you will have the right to physical and legal custody of your child. You, along with the mother, will be able to make decisions on behalf of the child such as those pertaining to education, health care, and religion.
The child will be your rightful heir and will be able to collect death or other benefits that you have, such as disability. A child will have access to medical matters that could impact his health in the future. A father will have a positive impact on his child’s life and will provide care and support as needed. The child will spend time with both parents and will know relatives on both sides of the family.
When Should a Father Establish Paternity?
Illinois law allows a father to establish paternity at any time before a child reaches the age of 20. However, it is often best to establish paternity as soon as possible after the birth of the child. A child will benefit from the many years that a father will spend with a child as he or she grows up. However, if you recently found out that you are a child’s father, you have the option to establish paternity. It is important to note that once legal paternity is established, someone has only two years to sue for paternity. Therefore, if you believe that you might be the biological father of a child, it is in your best interest to come forward and seek legal resolution immediately.
Contact Our Crystal Lake Fathers’ Rights Attorneys
Establishing paternity does not have to be a daunting experience. Our experienced family law attorneys in Crystal Lake understand the process of establishing paternity and will make it easy and stress-free. We will help you obtain legal paternity with a paternity test and protect your father’s rights. At Bruning & Associates, we have offices conveniently located in the area including in Chicago, Schaumburg, and Crystal Lake. Call Bruning & Associates today at (815) 455-3000 for a consultation today.