When a child is born outside of marriage, the parents often have questions about what will happen next to them and their child. One common question is whether it is truly necessary to go through the legal process of establishing paternity. Some parents are intimidated by the prospect of interacting with the Illinois court system in any way, while others may not see the benefits of making paternity official. For example, if you get along with the other parent, you may assume that your own personal arrangements for raising the child are sufficient. On the other hand, if you do not want the child’s father to be involved, you may feel that establishing paternity would only make things worse.
Though it is understandable to have concerns about establishing paternity, it is important not to fall victim to common misconceptions about what it entails. In many cases, establishing paternity is in your child’s best interests as well as your own, and doing so may not be as intimidating as you expect.
When a child is born to an unmarried mother, she is automatically presumed to be the child’s parent, with all of the parental rights that this entails. However, in most cases, the father has no such rights. Though a mother may be agreeable to the father seeing and spending time with the child or even helping to raise the child, if this ever changes, the father has no legal standing to assert parental rights or pursue parenting time or parental responsibilities.
With this in mind, it is important for fathers especially to establish legal paternity as soon as possible. Doing so does not have to be difficult, especially if the mother is in agreement. In Illinois, both parents can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) at the hospital as soon as the child is born. This form must be filed with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), but in most cases, the parents will not need to make any court appearances. Once paternity is established, the father has the standing to petition for custody, whether with the mother or on his own.
Establishing legal paternity is also necessary for a mother who wants to ensure that the child’s father contributes to child support. It is important to note that even if the father does not wish to pursue custody, or if the court determines that it is not in the child’s best interests to spend time with the father, he is still obligated to support the child financially.
If an alleged father refuses to acknowledge paternity, the mother still has options to ensure that the man is legally recognized as the child’s father. For example, she can work with HFS or the Illinois family court system to order the alleged father to submit to genetic testing, through which she may be able to obtain an administrative or judicial order of paternity.
If you have questions about the effects of establishing paternity or you need an attorney to represent you in your pursuit of a paternity order, [[title]] can help. Our experienced Lombard family law attorneys represent mothers and fathers in paternity cases of all kinds, and we can help you protect your rights and your child’s well-being. For a free consultation, call us today at [[phone]].
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