A child being born out of wedlock today does carry the stigma that it once did.; many couples may spend their entire lives together without getting legally married. Issues do arise, but usually for the parents, rather than the child themselves. Parental responsibility issues—formerly called child custody—are very common, and while a child has the legal right to expect support from both parents until they reach the age of 18, one parent will often refuse, especially if paternity is an issue.
How to Establish Paternity
In Illinois, the mother of a child born out of wedlock has all of the parental responsibilities for the child automatically if she is not married to the father. A man who wants to assert paternity may do so in one of three ways. The first is by having an administrative paternity order entered by the relevant state authority, which in Illinois, is the Department of Healthcare & Family Services (HFS). The second is to have an order entered by a judge—usually after genetic testing is performed. The third is for both parents to complete a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) form. Be advised that it is possible to be declared a child’s father by default if you have been served with notice of a pending paternity case and you do not attend the relevant court proceedings.
Child Support Issues
If a father wants to be involved in his child’s life but has not married the mother, it is important to be as open and straightforward with the court as possible. Any voluntary payment he makes to the mother is usually not counted as child support until a legal determination of paternity is made. After a determination is made, a child support order is likely to be established, regardless of whether or not the father intends to seek parental responsibilities or time with his child.
Exercising Parental Rights
A determination of legal paternity does not automatically give the father custodial rights or parenting time. It does, however, give him the right to ask the court for such considerations. When a child’s legal father petitions the court for shared parental responsibilities, the court must consider whether it is in the child’s best interest to grant the father’s request. In doing so, the court will take into account many factors, including the child’s current relationship with the father, whether the father has attempted to be involved in the child’s life since birth, and whether any allegations of abusive behavior have been made against the father.
A man, for example, who has no contact with a child or his former partner in years may be found to be the child’s legal father because of action initiated by the mother. If that man suddenly asks for equal parenting time after being absent for several years, he is likely to have that request denied. Conversely, a man who has made consistent efforts to see a child he believes to be his even before a determination of paternity is more likely to have reasonable requests for parental responsibilities and parenting time granted.
Work With an Experienced Attorney
Paternity issues are very common in Illinois courts, but while the parents may squabble, it is the child who often suffers. Contact an experienced family law attorney in St. Charles to get the help you need with your case. Call 630-377-7770 for a free consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today.