Determining the biological parent of a child is resolved in most circumstances by the birth certificate, but some people may place names on the birth certificate without really knowing, or without considering the legal significance of this action. Despite what many people believe, paternity is not necessarily defined as a biological concept accomplished by DNA testing, but rather, is a legal concept as defined by Illinois law. When the time comes to establish parenting rights during a divorce or custody proceedings, it may be necessary to make a thorough investigation into the parentage of the child or children. An experienced family law attorney can help you understand the importance of determining the actual parentage of your child.
Parentage questions usually arise when a mother indicates that an individual is the father and the alleged father denies it, or an alleged father asserts interest in a child that the mother claims is not his. There are varying circumstances where these issues arise. Consider the following:
The mother does not contest who the father is.
If the mother of the child agrees that you are the father of the child, the process of establishing parentage is relatively simple. As with all legal-related matters, however, despite its seeming simplicity, it is always best to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney before making decisions that may affect the rest of your life. Both the mother and the agreed father must sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity and file it with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services in order to establish parentage in this circumstance. Please note that there can be consequences to signing the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity if you are not certain you are the father and this may cause you to be bound to legal obligations in the future even if it is later revealed you are not, biologically, the father of the child.
The mother contests who the father is, but is married.
If the mother of a child is married, there is a legal presumption that the child was born of the married couple. If this is not the case, the mother, her spouse and the alleged third-party father can sign and file a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, but note that the same possible consequences as listed above may apply. The spouse would also need to sign and file a Denial of Paternity form, stating that he is not the father of the child, and severing his future legal rights and responsibilities to the child.
The mother contests who the father is, but is unmarried.
The mother can petition the court for a DNA test to determine parentage if the father is undetermined. The burden is generally on the purported father to disprove that he is the father of the child if alleged.
Similar issues may also arise when a mother is denying a purported father legal rights such as custody, visitation, or decision-making authority. In this circumstance, the father will want to advocate his rights and ultimately prove he is the father through genetic testing.
The purported father does not believe he is the father.
One of the primary circumstances where a father contests his parentage is when the mother begins seeking child support. The alleged father may wish to be freed of any legal responsibility of the child and will advocate for a test to determine he is not the father. If his name is already on the birth certificate or if he had previously signed a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, there may be additional challenges in making this determination.
While other circumstances do exist, these are the most common issues that arise in the family law context. Establishing paternity is important in order to enforce legal responsibilities on the biological parents, chiefly, orders of child support, custody and visitation, and allocation of parenting responsibilities.
While most people understand parentage solely as a biological concept, DNA testing is not the only way to establish paternity under Illinois law. DNA testing is, however, useful, in instances where there is a debate as to the biological father and one of the parties does not agree to the parent designation. A child, a mother, or a father who believes he does (or does not) have legal rights and responsibilities toward a child may petition for genetic testing to determine the parentage of a child. Determining the biological parentage of the child will help in allowing a father to receive parenting responsibilities and rights if desired, or to eliminate responsibilities if deemed not the father of the child.
If you are a mother or an individual who believes you have legal rights to a child in Illinois, you are not alone. You are entitled to know who the parent of your child is or whether you have parented a child in Illinois. The legal rights and responsibilities that accompany parentage are significant, and whether you are trying to prove or disprove paternity, our experienced DuPage County family law attorneys at Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. have helped numerous families resolve their legal questions quickly and efficiently. Contact our convenient Naperville law office at (630) 756-5112 and let us help you form your family.