If an unmarried couple has a child together, each parent should have the ability to exercise the same parental rights as a married father. However, in order for a man to have his rights and obligations as a father recognized by the courts, he must take steps first to establish “legal paternity.” Legal paternity means that the law recognizes the unmarried father as the father of the child in question and, once it is established, he may have custody and/or visitation rights, as well as the responsibility to help support the child.
Legal paternity is established if:
- The father was married to the mother at the time of conception and/or birth of the child;
- The father and mother married after the birth of the child, and he agreed to be listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate;
- Both the father and the mother have signed a special form, voluntarily acknowledging that the man is the child’s father; or
- The father, mother, or child petitions the court to recognize legal paternity and the court issues an order as such.
If you believe you are the father of a child and are not married to the child’s mother, the mother may not always agree that you are the rightful father. In such cases, if you want to have a relationship with your child, you will have to petition the court and request a DNA test that shows you are the rightful father.
Even if the mother does agree that you are the father, you may still face some challenges. For example, if the mother is currently married to another man or was married to another man at the time of the birth of your child, that man is legally presumed to be the child’s father. In order to have your paternity fully recognized, the husband or ex-husband must agree to sign a form denying he is the biological father. As you may imagine, this may be challenging in some situations, especially if the husband believes he is actually the true father.
What Happens if You Do Not Establish Paternity?
Paternity cases can get messy, and it is in your best interests to establish legal paternity if you wish to continue to have a relationship with your child. Without legal paternity, a mother has the right to disallow you from even seeing your child. Moreover, someone else may be able to adopt your child and your child will not be able to inherit any benefits from you or other assets without a will. For these reasons, if you want to foster a father/child relationship, you should establish legal paternity as soon as possible.
If you wish to establish paternity or simply have any questions regarding paternity cases in DuPage County, do not hesitate to contact the dedicated family law attorneys at Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. Call our office today at (877) 889-4515 to set up a free consultation.