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Should a Man Force a Paternity Test in Illinois?

There are times when a man should pursue a paternity test. If a man wants a legal and/or emotional relationship with his child, and the mother does not immediately agree to all proposed terms, a man should force a paternity test in Illinois.

Conversely, if a man doesn’t want a legal and/or emotional relationship with a child, then there is no reason to force a paternity test in Illinois. This is true even if the mother does agree to all the terms and conditions he proposes. There’s no shame in either position. The old saying that kids need fathers is partially true, but not entirely true. Children need fathers who want to be fathers. Obligatory parenting benefits no one.

The aforementioned legal relationship usually includes an enforceable visitation schedule. This schedule is the cornerstone of an emotional relationship. It demonstrates a father’s commitment to a child, and commitment is a key ingredient of pretty much any relationship. The chance to develop a relationship with a child is only one of the principles that our Illinois fathers’ rights attorneys uphold. We help you put the pieces in place so your family can thrive, both now and in the future, whatever that family may look like.

Legal Relationship

A father’s signature on a birth certificate is better than nothing. However, in most cases, this signature only establishes a limited administrative parent-child relationship. This limited administrative relationship is usually a conceptual child support obligation.

Illinois law provides that all parents have a duty to financially support their children. This particular law is silent as to the extent of that obligation. This determination usually comes later. Since Illinois is an income share state, the exact obligation depends on a number of factors, mostly the proportional income of both factors, the age of the children, and the number of overnights each parent has.

So, it’s almost impossible to affix a dollar amount to a limited administrative relationship. Eventually, a judge will probably settle the question. When that happens, the judge will most likely order the father to pay past-due support. Generally, the child support obligation is almost always higher than men think it is, or think it should be.

The Purpose Of Child Support

Before we go further, we should pause and discuss the purpose of child support. This form of financial support is not a financial penalty. Furthermore, these payments are not designed to help mothers pay for basic expenses. Instead, child support payments raise the standard of living for the children. It’s not their fault that their parents aren’t married and aren’t sharing the bills.

In a perfect world, child support payments would exclusively benefit the children. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. Such a system would be difficult or impossible to enforce. The current system is the next best thing.

Furthermore, the limited administrative child support obligation usually doesn’t give fathers access to an authorized online payment portal. Such access usually requires a divorce or other family law case number. So, payments and receipts are almost impossible to verify. Even if the father has payment records, the mother could easily argue the funds were gifts, reimbursement for expenses, or something other than child support payments.

A legal parent-child relationship establishes a fixed child support obligation. Fathers know exactly how much they owe. Additionally, the court has almost unlimited power to modify the obligation, either up or down, if financial or other circumstances materially and substantially change. So, there are no surprises later, the father makes payments through an authorized portal, and the obligation can be changed at almost any time.

Child support is just the beginning. A paternity action establishes ground rules for visitation and also gives the father additional legal options later.

How Paternity Protects Fathers

As mentioned, an administrative relationship gives fathers no legal rights. They cannot participate in any meaningful decisions concerning the child’s upbringing. Furthermore, the mother could relocate with the child and not give notice to the father. In fact, in some cases, the mother might be able to put the child up for adoption without notifying the father. A paternity action addresses these matters.

Most paternity orders give both parents the right to give input into matters like where the child goes to school, what doctor the child sees, and so on. To protect the father’s rights, our Illinois fathers’ rights lawyers usually include specific provisions (e.g. the child will see Dr. Smith). If the mother wants to change the designation, she must file a motion to modify, which is based on the aforementioned changed circumstances. Simply changing her mind is insufficient. Instead, the new designation must be in the best interests of the child.

Additionally, most paternity orders contain contact information for both parents. Each parent has a duty to keep updated information on file with the court and also, in most cases, notify the other parent of any changes. Exceptions are possible if there are verified allegations of domestic abuse or similar issues.

Finally, on this point, paternity orders generally include visitation schedules. More on these schedules are below.

Some fathers aspire to be more than part-time parents. If full custody is a long-term goal, the father must start with a paternity order. In most cases, only legal parents may be full-time custodians.

Emotional Relationship

Illinois has a co-parenting law that presumes that children benefit if they consistently spend a meaningful amount of time with each parent. Specific visitation factors include:

  • Domestic Violence: Verified allegations of domestic violence, especially if a child in the case was a victim or witness, are often a deal-breaker in terms of shared custody. Judges almost always significantly restrict parenting time in these situations. That’s why it’s so important for alleged abusers to partner with an Illinois fathers’ rights attorney. An adverse result at a DV hearing could have long-term adverse consequences.
  • Child’s Age: If the child is very young, judges usually limit father-child contact, at least until the father proves he has mastered basic parenting skills. Usually, age-related restrictions end when the father completes a parenting class or the child reaches an age milestone.
  • Status Quo: If the child is older, an informal timesharing arrangement may have been in place for several years. When these arrangements are working, at least, for the most part, judges like to keep them in effect. Even if they don’t admit it, children need predictability.
  • Individual Preference: Usually, preferences are indirect. For example, witnesses might testify that Junior is happier when he’s with his father. Conversely, if the father showed little interest in the child for months or even years, the father has expressed a parenting time preference.

These different factors, and others listed in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, have at least one thing in common. They point toward the best interests of the child. In the end, all good parents want what is best for their children. But they often disagree about the details. In many cases, these disagreements are difficult to resolve.

The Paternity Process

In the past, when sharp disagreements arose, courts almost always sided with mothers. Understandably, some fathers, therefore, believe the dispute resolution process is a waste of time. But for the most part, family court judges in Illinois are willing to hear both sides of the story before they make decisions.

So, if the mother doesn’t agree to shared custody, fathers shouldn’t be afraid to partner with an Illinois fathers’ rights attorney and take the matter to court. The paternity lawsuit process is also a lot different today.

Confirming paternity is usually the first step in this process. Men who sign birth certificates are presumptive fathers. If that’s not enough, a non-invasive DNA swab test is almost 100 percent accurate.

Financial support matters are usually very straightforward. The guideline child support obligation is presumptively reasonable in most situations. The judge may also order some expense reimbursement, such as hospital cost reimbursement. The payee is usually the mother or Medicaid. This expense reimbursement is usually proportional to the father’s income.

The parenting time division could be more complex, based on the above discussion about child custody factors. Nevertheless, most parenting time disputes settle rather quickly. Neither side wants a protracted and expensive court battle.

Frequently, Illinois family law judges order social studies in contested matters. A licensed social worker investigates the case and makes a custody and visitation recommendation. This study isn’t technically binding. However, to refute its results, a party must normally commission an independent social study. Even then, the judge could go with either social study’s result.

Connect with a Hard-Working Kane County Fathers’ Rights Lawyer

Men have rights especially when it comes to their children. And, children should have the opportunity to both their parent’s attention and love. Therefore, men shouldn’t hesitate to force paternity tests in some situations.

For a free consultation with an experienced Illinois fathers’ rights attorney, contact Keller Legal Services by calling 630-505-1515. You can have your unique situation evaluated and learn more about what you can do to get greater access to your children. Convenient payment plans are available.