What is Paternity?
When a child is born to unwed parents, parentage is required to establish a parent's legal relationship to a child. Parentage includes the relationship between the mother and child (maternity) and the relationship between the father and child (paternity). When parentage is established, a person is considered the legal parent of the child and certain rights and responsibilities attach, including the duty to support the child and the right to parenting time (visitation).
It is important to establish parentage as soon as possible once the child is born. You can file for parentage up until the child turns 18, or later, depending on the circumstances.
How Do I Establish Paternity?
There are three ways to establish paternity in Illinois:
- Sign the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form and file it with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
- HFS' Child Support Services establish and enter an Administrative Paternity Order; or
- An Order of Paternity is established and entered in court.
Usually, the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form is filled out when both parents agree that they are the biological parents, while the last two are used when one parent contests that he/she is the biological parent of the child (usually the father).
A Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage Form is used to establish parentage for unwed parents. The Form will be used to add the father's name to the child's birth certificate, and it may be signed by any biological parent. A VAP may be obtained at several locations, including: a hospital; local child support office; HFS/DCCS website; any Department of Human Services office; any County Clerk's office; or any state or local Registrar's office. Once you obtain the VAP form from the listed locations, both parents must sign and date the form and have witnesses acknowledge the signature before submitting the form to the Department of Health and Family Services.
An Administrative Paternity Order is used by people who are receiving assistance and paternity needs to be established. This can be easier than going to court, however, it will only deal with parentage and child support. Parenting time and parental responsibilities will not be determined.
Usually, parents who disagree on who is the mother or father of child will go to court to have the judge establish parentage. The forms that need to be filed with the court include: a Petition to Establish Paternity explaining why you are filing with the court; a Notice to Presumed Parent; a Parentage Summons which tells the other person about the case; and an application for Waiver of Court Fees if you cannot afford the court fees. Once your case is presented, a judge will then determine parental responsibilities (custody), including child support, parenting time, and decision-making power. It is best to seek a lawyer during this time.
Establishing parentage can be difficult for any new parent seeking to establish a legal relationship with their child. For more information, please contact Lafata Law. To schedule a consultation, call our office at 630-481-6633.
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