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Establishing Paternity in Illinois

Rolling Meadows Family Law Attorney

To have certain rights regarding your child, you must be the child's legal parent. These rights include the right to seek parental responsibilities and parenting time with your child and the right to seek child support to help cover your expenses associated with caring for him or her. These rights have far reaches – parental responsibilities include the right to make decisions on your child's behalf about issues such as his or her religious upbringing and medical care, parenting time gives you the opportunity to build and maintain a relationship with your child, and child support can be necessary to providing the financial structure your child needs to thrive.

Determining a child's mother is simple. The woman who gives birth to a child is the child's legal mother unless she voluntarily relinquishes her parental rights to an adoptive parent. If the woman was married at the time of the child's conception or birth, her spouse, regardless of gender, is also the child's legal parent. When an unmarried mother gives birth, the child's other parent must establish his or her parentage, known as paternity when the parent in question is male, in order to have legal rights to the child. There are a few ways to do this, as outlined below.

Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity

The most straightforward way to establish a child's parentage is to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form. This form can be signed at the hospital shortly after the child's birth. It can be obtained from a county clerk, county health department, Child Support Services, or a public aid office. Parents do not have to be married to sign this form, nor do they need to provide concrete proof of the child's biological parentage.

Department of Healthcare and Family Services Hearing

When parents do not agree about a child's parentage, they may establish the child's parentage through a hearing with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. To do this, the Department conducts interviews with both alleged parents. During its interaction with the mother, she signs paperwork attesting to the alleged father's parentage. The Department then interviews the father and if he opts to acknowledge his paternity and sign the necessary paperwork, the process is complete. If he does not, the Department may schedule DNA testing to determine if he is the child's biological parent. If the alleged father does not attend his interview after being served with notice of the process, the court may declare him to be the child's legal father by default.

Establishing Paternity in Court

A Court Order of Paternity also be used to establish a child's parentage. This order may be issued after a court hearing, during which the party seeking the paternity establishment must provide sufficient proof of the child's parentage. This can include the results of a DNA test.

Genetic Testing as Part of a Paternity Case

When a DNA test is part of determining a child's parentage, the court may help the parent seeking to establish paternity to pay for the test. In Illinois, a DNA test does not conclusively determine whether an individual is a child's legal parent. Under the amendments made to the Illinois Parentage Act that went into effect in January 2016, the court may deny a parent's motion to use DNA test results to establish a child's paternity. The court may choose to do this if it determines that using DNA results to establish paternity are not in the child's best interest because of the child's age, the child's relationship with his or her alleged father, or the potential fallout to this relationship and others by conclusively determining the child's parentage.

Despite these issues, it is generally a good idea to have genetic testing performed to use as evidence to support your claim of your child's parentage. Talk to your lawyer about the court's right to deny your motion to use the test results and if this could be a concern in your case.

Work with an Experienced Cook County Family Law Firm

If you need to confirm or officially acknowledge your child's parentage, work with an experienced Rolling Meadows family lawyer to obtain and file the necessary paperwork. Contact the Law Offices of Donald J. Cosley today to schedule your initial consultation with Mr. Cosley, who can answer any questions you have and help you complete your paternity case.

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