When a child is born to a married couple, the parents are typically prepared for many of the challenges that await them. The prospect of raising a child, of course, may seem daunting at times, but the mother and father will generally rely upon each other for help and support over the years. However, when a child is born outside of marriage, the challenges facing the parents may be quite different. Among the first of such obstacles is often creating a legal relationship between the child and his or her father through the establishment of legal paternity.
The law in Illinois provides for several situations in which a man is presumed to be a child’s father and is therefore granted legal paternity. These include:
- He and the mother were married at the time of birth or conception; or
- He and the mother got married after the birth of the child and he consented to his name on the birth certificate.
These provisions, obviously, refer to situations in which the man and the mother were married or got married, and offer little guidance for situations involving unwed parents.
A man who is not married to the mother of the child may seek the establishment of paternity in other ways. The easiest method of doing so is by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) along with the child’s mother. Absent a VAP, either parent may seek an administrative or judicial order to determine paternity, which, in some cases, may require genetic paternity testing.
Paternal Rights and Responsibilities
By establishing legal paternity, the father is granted parental rights related to the child, regardless of the man’s continued relationship with the mother. He is granted standing to petition for custody of the child and visitation rights, as well as the rights to oppose an out-of-state move or the future adoption of the child. The parental rights of both parents are vigorously protected by state law, and may only be terminated by means of justified court action.
Legal paternity also imparts upon the man certain responsibilities regarding the child as well. As the child’s father, he is likely to become subject to a court order for the financial support of the child. Such orders may include provisions, not only for day-to-day necessities like food, clothing, and shelter, but also for educational costs, medical expenses, and child care.
At Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C., we realize that establishing legal paternity is merely the first step in being a father to your child. We know that you want to play an active role in raising your son or daughter and are committed to helping you do just that. Contact one of our experienced St. Charles family law attorneys today for a free consultation. We will work with you to provide your child with every opportunity that he or she deserves.