Establishing paternity in Illinois is generally very straightforward and easily outlined. Under Illinois law, if the parents were married at the time of the birth of the child, then the wife’s husband is legally presumed to be the father of the child. If the parents were not married when the child was born, paternity must be established.
If the parents were not married, then the biological father is NOT considered to be the parent until paternity is legally established. Whether the father plans to marry the mother of the child the next day, or never speaks to her again, paternity still must be established in order to create a legally-binding father-child relationship.
When a child is born out of wedlock there are three possible scenarios that exist to establish paternity in Illinois.
1. Both parents complete and sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP). This is a legal form wherein a male individual acknowledges that he is the father of the child at issue. This is a very common way to establish paternity and the VAP is often executed at the hospital after the birth of the child.
2. An Administrative Paternity Order is entered by the State of Illinois’ Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ (HFS) Child Support Services.
3. An Order of Paternity is entered by a judge in court.
The last two scenarios most commonly arise if the father contests that he is the biological father of the child. In these instances, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services acts as a liaison and tries to establish paternity first, prior to seeking legal measures. Typically HFS will schedule DNA testing and an in office interview to resolve the matter. If the alleged father does not attend the interview, HFS can declare him to be the legal father by default.
If paternity cannot be established outside of court, HFS is represented in court by the State’s Attorney’s Office. Both the mother and alleged father are required to attend the court hearing to establish paternity. If the father does not attend the hearing a judge can establish legal paternity in his absence.
If you feel pressure to, or have already signed the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity and are regretting it, you still have options. A Rescission of Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity can be signed by either parent but must be submitted to the HFS office within 60 days of the date the VAP was signed or the date of an administrative or judicial proceeding related to the child, whichever comes first.
If it has been past 60 days, the only possibility of reversing paternity is through court and the filing of a Motion to Vacate the VAP, but a court will only grant this motion under limited circumstances.