More couples in Illinois have children without getting married today, with about 36% of children being conceived outside of marriage. As a result, a common question is if unmarried men have rights in decisions involving children and pregnancy. Learn more about this subject below, and talk to our Naperville fathers’ rights lawyers at Keller Legal Services for more information.
Unfortunately, unmarried fathers in Illinois have few rights involving pregnancy and children. While it is understood who the mother of a child is regardless of whether she is married and has the right of being a parent, the father has no rights unless legal action is taken. You need to prove your paternity to establish your rights.
Establishing your rights as a father in Illinois can be done in several ways. First, if you are married to the mother or in a civil union, it is assumed you are the father. The law assumes this is the case as long if the parents agree.
Second, is having you and the mother sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form if you are unmarried. But both parties only want to sign the document if you are sure of paternity. Parents typically complete this form voluntarily when their child is delivered, then it is filed with the Department of Health and Family Services (HFS). However, if you want, the VAP can be filled out later, but it must be witnessed before mailing it to HFS.
If you want to change your mind after signing the VAP because you do not think you are the child’s father, you have sixty days to do so. After that, the VAP can be contested by either parent if they file a Rescission of Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity.
The third way to establish paternity is with an Administrative Paternity Order. Child Support Services in Illinois wants to be sure that both parents offer financial support to their children, and they do it by proving paternity. An Administrative Paternity Order usually happens when the mother desires the father to provide financial support to the child.
The fourth way to prove paternity in Illinois is with a Judicial Paternity Order. When paternity is questioned, you can file a paternity petition in court to show paternity. The case starts with one of the parties submitting a petition. Next, a hearing is scheduled. A fathers’ rights attorney in Naperville best handles these complex cases.
A paternity test looks at the father’s, mother’s, and child’s DNA from each party’s cheek swab. The test will legally establish who the father is with a certainty of 99.9%.
After you establish paternity as an unmarried father, the state’s laws require family courts to treat both parents in a gender-neutral fashion. Unfortunately, this means that the courts cannot give the child’s mother more rights because she is the mother.
An unwed father that has been proven by paternity to be the father has the same rights to visitation or child custody as the mother. But note that Illinois does not use the words ‘visitation’ or ‘custody’ in family law legal proceedings today. Rather, these concepts are part of parenting time and parental responsibilities.
Family courts in Illinois are biased toward some type of joint or shared parental responsibilities and parenting time. However, the law requires the courts to consider the child’s best interests above everything else. For the unwed father, the ideal way to obtain parental rights is to show the court the strongest case that you can give the child a healthy and happy environment. Therefore, when the court decides on parenting time and responsibilities, it will consider the following factors:
More information about paternity and fathers’ rights includes answers to these questions:
Legally proving you are a child’s father is vital for all parties involved, especially your child. After you establish paternity, the child gains financial security. The child also may be able to receive life and health insurance benefits, inheritance, veteran’s benefits in some cases, and social security benefits. The child will also be able to learn about their genetic history. Knowing the father’s identity can be crucial so the child can avoid some genetic conditions to avoid medical problems later.
If the child has two parents that have been legally established, a third party cannot sue for paternity if at least two years passed since paternity was established. If the child or a parent wants to challenge who the father is, they have two years from the date they knew or should have known about the information to file the case.
No. Proving paternity does not necessarily mean the father will pay child support. Paying child support is determined by what each parent makes and how often the child spends with each party.
If you signed it because you thought you were the father and then found out you are not, it is necessary to fill out a Rescission of Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity within two months of signing the VAP.
Establishing your paternity is the first step if you want visitation or child custody, which are now called parenting time and parental responsibilities. But you do not automatically have a right to either by proving you are the father. Illinois family courts decide both of these issues.
If you are an unwed father and must establish your parental rights, it is essential to act quickly. Our Naperville fathers’ rights lawyers at Keller Legal Services can help to establish your parental right to visitation and being part of your child’s life, so call (630) 505-1515 today.