Each year, more than one third of all children born in the United States are born to unmarried parents. While certain cities and states deal with higher out-of-wedlock birth rates than others, the numbers indicate that, nationally, nearly 1.5 million sets of parents must legally establish paternity for their child in order for the child’s father to be granted parental rights as set by law. With those rights, obviously, comes responsibilities as well, as establishing legal paternity also requires the father to contribute to the support of the child, often in the form of financial child support.
Paternity in Illinois
Under Illinois law, legal paternity converts a “putative,” or alleged, father of a child to the child’s legal father, with full parental rights and requirements. Statutorily, there are several ways in which a father’s legal status can be secured:
- The father and mother were married at the time of the child’s conception or birth;
- After the birth of the child, the father and mother have married each other and the father consents to being listed on the birth certificate;
- Both parents sign an Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity Form, either in the hospital at the time of the child’s birth or at any subsequent time; or
- An administrative or court order granting legal paternity to the father, often based on the results of genetic testing.
While establishing paternity is relatively simple in many cases, others may present more complex challenges. For example, a child born to a married mother is assumed to be the legal child of the mother’s husband, even if he is biologically not the father. In order for the biological father to be granted paternity rights, the husband must legally deny that he is the child’s father in addition to the completion of the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. This can create a great deal of hardship for all parties involved, and may require legal action or genetic testing to verify.
Benefits for the Father
As a child’s legal father, a man is granted a number of rights regarding the child. He is granted standing as a parent to file petitions related to child custody, rights of visitation, and child support. In addition, a legal father is able to protect his own rights to the child by being able to prevent potential adoption proceedings without his consent. Legal paternity also establishes a relationship between a father and child, often making the child eligible for certain inheritable benefits through his or her father.
If you are interested in establishing legal paternity for your child, or would like more information about paternity laws in Illinois, contact an experienced Wheaton family law attorney. We have helped many families find the security they deserve by working within the law to establish paternity in a wide variety of situations. Call today to schedule your free consultation.