Illinois law recognizes the importance of every child’s right to the support of both parents. This includes children whose parents are not married, as well as those who are. But unmarried parents must establish their children’s paternity to ensure the benefits of parenthood for their children.
In Illinois, a man is presumed to be the child’s father when the child is born during the marriage. When the parents have not married, paternity must be established through other means. There are several methods for establishing paternity in Illinois.
First, a child’s paternity may be established if the father marries the mother after the child’s birth and is listed, with his written consent, on the child’s birth certificate after the birth.
Secondly, paternity may be established with a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) form. The form must be signed by both parents and witnessed. Usually, it is signed in the hospital after the baby is born. The form may not be signed before birth.
If the parents sign a VAP, the father’s name will be added to the birth certificate. In the VAP, the parents agree that the alleged father is the father and waive any right to DNA testing. Some fathers sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, but if they were never married to the mother they do not have the same rights as the mother.
When the child is living with a parent, and the parent is receiving Illinois public aid benefits or health insurance, the parent may request that the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) help establish child support. Generally, the parent’s income must be at or below the poverty level, and the parent is receiving public aid benefits. The parent must apply with HFS, and as a result, HFS may enter an Administrative Paternity Order. HFS may order the parents to submit to genetic testing to determine parentage because the department has an interest in making sure that children get financial support from their parents. Generally, HFS does not get involved with anything other than establishing child support.
Another way to establish paternity is through the court system. A parent brings an action in court to establish the father or mother. Sometimes there is a trial in front of a judge in circuit court in a county in which any of the parties resides. If the court determines that the man is the child’s legal and biological father, it issues a paternity order, making the relationship legal.
Establishing legal paternity has several beneficial effects for children. It means that the supporting parent has an obligation to provide financially for the child, including paying child support, health insurance, medical costs, and educational expenses. The child also becomes eligible for benefits through the father, including Social Security, health insurance, life insurance benefits, the right to inheritance, and veterans’ benefits. Additionally, the child will have access to both parents’ medical histories.
There are also emotional and social benefits. The child can develop a relationship with the supporting parent and their family. However, establishing paternity does not establish parenting time or custody rights. Parents must petition the court to establish these rights.
It is vital for any child to know both parents and their mother or father be legally recognized. Call the family law attorney, Susan A. Marks, at SAM LAW OFFICE, LLC for a free consultation.
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