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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.
The law in Illinois strongly protects the rights of parents regarding their children. Courts encourage mothers and fathers to remain involved in their children’s lives and only terminate a person’s parental rights in the most serious and extreme cases. On the other hand, the state also recognizes the importance of establishing legal parent-child relationships, especially between children and their fathers. While this can be of particular value for a child with only one active parent, the recently enacted Illinois Parentage Act of 2015 recognizes that, in some cases, proving a biological relationship is not as important as the strong relationships that already exist in the child’s life.
Presumed and Legal Parentage
According to the statute, there are several situations in which a person would be presumed to be child’s legal parent. Most of these presumptions are based on the marital or domestic relationship between the person in question and the child’s mother. If the presumption is unrebutted, the presumed parentage is treated as legal parentage. In the absence of a presumed parent, or as a rebuttal to such a presumption, there are other options for establishing parentage or paternity. The simplest way is for both parents to complete a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. However, not all situations are clear enough for both parents to feel comfortable enough to voluntarily create the parent-child relationship, and these case may require the intervention of the court.