Illinois Laws Regarding Paternity
Establishing legal paternity is essential if a father wants visitation rights and is also required if a mom wants to seek child support. Issues surrounding paternity – the legal relationship between a father and his child – are governed by the Illinois Parentage Act as well as provisions of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
How Is Paternity Established?
Illinois provides for three ways to establish paternity.
- Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP). This is a form signed by both parents at the hospital after the birth. The VAP establishes legal parentage without the court’s involvement.
- Administrative Paternity Order. Mothers may go to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to obtain this order, which is often used when they are seeking child support payments from the father.
- Order of Paternity. Filing for an Order of Paternity involves the judicial system, establishing paternity through a court order.
What Is a Paternity Test?
DNA of the child, mother, and alleged father is used to determine if the man is the biological father of the child. A DNA sample is obtained by swabbing the inside of a person’s cheek.
Who Can Order a Paternity Test?
The mother of a child can ask for a paternity test. If the alleged father refuses, the mother can involve the DHFS to request the paternity test. If the man still refuses, DHFS can then obtain a court order.
If the man refuses to comply with the court order, he is breaking the law. He can be held in contempt of court and fined. In cases when the man does not submit to the paternity test, the courts may enter a default judgment naming him the legal father and requiring him to pay child support.
The man also may choose to take a paternity test if he wants to establish his legal rights to the child.
Fighting DNA Test Results
The court will appoint an expert to conduct the DNA test, but each party has the option to hire an independent expert to perform additional tests or to testify in court. The case will be dismissed if all the experts agree that the alleged father is not the biological father. When the experts disagree, the court considers the experts’ testimony as well as the probability of paternity as shown by the test.
The man will be presumed to be the father if the paternity test shows that he is at least 1,000 times more likely to be the father than not.
Presuming the Legal Father
The Illinois Parentage Act states that a man is the "presumed" father of the child if any of the following are true:
- He is married, or in a civil union, with the mother when the child is born.
- He was married to the mother, but the marriage ended no more than 300 days before the birth of the child.
- He marries the mother after the child's birth and is listed as the father on the child's birth certificate.
Importance of Establishing Paternity
Paternity is more than child support payments and can be a benefit for mom, dad, and child.
Here are some reasons to consider establishing paternity.
- Financial security for the child (Social Security benefits from a deceased or disabled parent, inheritance, Veteran’s benefits, health and life insurance benefits).
- Knowing the father’s medical history can be important for the child should they have questions about their own health and the role of genetics.
- Gives the child a sense of identity and connections to extended family.
- Fathers may want to formalize visitation or custody agreements.
- Gives fathers access to the child’s school and medical records.
Whether you want to establish paternity or are the subject of a paternity action, our experienced paternity attorneys can provide skillful representation.
Schedule a consultation at the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. by contacting us online or giving us a call at (312) 487-2795.