The importance of legally establishing paternity for unmarried fathers

The importance of legally establishing paternity for unmarried fathers

In the State of Illinois, if a couple is married and the wife has a child, it is automatically presumed that the husband is the father. No further legal recourse is needed in order for him to be acknowledged as the legal father. However, in the event that the couple is unmarried, the father is not given the presumption that his in fact the father. He must formally establish paternity.

Failing to establish paternity can have adverse effects on the true father’s parental rights. For example, if the true father fails to establish paternity and the mother later marries another man, the new husband will be considered the father for all legal purposes. This event may result in the automatic forfeiture of the true father’s rights to be involved in the child’s life, such as participating in medical and educational decision making for the child, visitation, etc.

In order to establish paternity, a father has three options in the State of Illinois:

  1. He and the mother can voluntarily sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form.
  2. An Administrative Paternity Order can be entered by the State of Illinois’ Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ (HFS) Child Support Services
  3. An Order of Paternity can be entered by a judge in court

Fathers who lack 100% certainty that the child is truly theirs should proceed with caution. Before establishing paternity, fathers are advised to have a paternity test conducted as a protective mechanism. If a man who believes he is the father of a child legally establishes paternity and later finds out he is not truly the father, he may still be required by the courts to pay child support. In this instance, if the father established paternity through signing a VAP form, he has 60 days to rescind the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity.

For more information on establishing paternity, feel free to contact The Law Office of Bradley R. Tengler in Rockford, IL at 815-981-4859 for a free consultation. Please note, the above does not constitute legal advice. Please discuss your specific rights with an attorney in your own jurisdiction.


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