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Legal Paternity Protects a Father’s Rights

When a child is born to unmarried parents, the father is typically expected to be a source of support and reliability to both the child and the mother. Of course, there may be responsibilities like painting the baby’s room, changing diapers, and late night feedings. The most important thing an unmarried father can do for himself, however, is to establish legal paternity.

Current Illinois law regularly makes reference to a child’s legal mother and father. In all but the most extreme cases, the legal mother is determined by virtue of the child’s birth. Paternity, on the other hand, is established by legal documentation or proceeding, changing the status of an alleged father to the legal father. Legal paternity carries with it all of the rights and obligations provided to any parent under law.

Some Benefits of Legal Paternity

Regardless of the father’s relationship with the mother, establishing legal paternity can be of significant benefit to the child and the father. Benefits can include:

  • The birth certificate can include both parents’ names;
  • Information regarding medical history and ancestry can be more easily obtained;
  • Support obligations for the child is more easily enforced;
  • Additional benefit programs, including Social Security, scholarships, and other memberships may become available based on the father’s eligibility; and
  • The legal rights of both parents can be better protected, and once established, parental rights are not easily revoked.

How to Establish Legal Paternity

Illinois law provides several methods for determining a man to be a child’s legal father:

  • Both parents can complete and sign a Volunteer Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form;
  • The Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ (HFS) Child Support Service may issue an Administrative Paternity Order;
  • An Order of Paternity can be entered by a judge; or
  • Subsequent marriage of the unmarried parents to each other.

Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) Form

The VAP is the easiest and most common way to for legal paternity to be determined. Hospitals almost always make the form available to unmarried parents at the time of the baby’s birth. By providing personal information and the child, and signing the VAP, both parents accept both parental and financial responsibilities the child.

Paternity Orders

As part of its mission to make sure a child is being properly supported by both of the parents, HFS’ Child Support Services may take interest in a child’s situation. The state grants HFS the power to gather relevant familial information and possibly require genetic testing. Based on its findings and provisions under the law, HFS can issue a Paternity Order. Certain cases find their way to the courtroom where state attorneys or the Office of the Attorney General may represent HFS. In these cases, a judge could issue an Order of Paternity based on the information presented.

If you wish to establish legal paternity of your child and the opportunity to sign the VAP has passed, we can help. Contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney today for a review of your case. We will help you protect the parental rights the law provides.