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The Importance of Establishing Paternity

By Leslie Fineberg on April 8, 2014

Establishing paternity is important for establishing a legal relationship between a father and a child. In Illinois, if a child is born to a couple that is married, it is presumed that the husband is the legal parent of the child.

If a couple is unmarried at the time of a birth, then the father is considered “the alleged father” and is not considered the legal father until certain steps are taken. His name cannot be added to the birth certificate until paternity is legally established.

In Illinois there are three ways to establish paternity:

  • Both parents complete, sign and have witnessed a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form;
  • The State of Illinois’ Department of Healthcare and Family Services enters an Administrative Paternity Order; or
  • A judge enters an Order of Paternity in court.

However, before jumping headlong into acknowledgment of paternity, it is important to play it smart, especially if paternity is in doubt.

If a couple is unmarried at the time of the birth, both the mother and the father must sign the VAP form. But, if either parent is unsure of paternity, then it would be unwise to sign a VAP without first getting results from a paternity test.

Even if a VAP has been signed, you still have the option to have it rescinded. Either person can sign a Rescission of Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form and it has to be witnessed. But be aware that you only have 60 days to make this happen from the day the VAP was signed or the date of a judicial or administrative proceeding related to the child, whichever comes first.

The repercussions of not getting this right can be long lasting. For instance, you may find yourself legally obligated to pay child support for a child that is not biologically yours. If you ignore any court orders regarding paternity you may find yourself established as a child’s legal father by default, so it is essential to follow through.

Conversely, it is important that if you want to be part of a child’s life that you establish paternity. Say a child is yours and the mother is married to another man: if you don’t immediately attempt to establish paternity the husband will be considered the legal father and you may have forfeited any legal right to participate in the child’s life.

Paternity issues can be complicated and emotional. When it comes to a child’s well being and your own, it is important that you separate emotion from the task at hand to make the right decision. If you have any questions about your legal rights when it comes to establishing paternity in Illinois, contact Nottage & Ward in Chicago. Please call us at (312) 332-2915 or contact us online today to schedule a review of your case.

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