More and more couples in America today are declining to marry, and for a variety of reasons: cost, tax laws, or simply personal belief. However, there are sometimes unintended consequences for their children. If a child’s parents are not married when the child is born, there may be difficulties establishing that child’s paternity. This can cause legal issues and unpleasant surprises for both parents and the child later in life.
There are several good reasons to want to establish paternity for your child and for the sake of the father. Some common ones are:
- Ensuring a child’s right to a relationship with their father;
- Adding the father’s name to the birth certificate;
- Letting the father have access to all relevant family medical information; and
- Protecting the child’s right to any benefits derived from their father (for example, veteran’s benefits or inheritance).
When a child is born to married parents, Illinois law presumes automatically that the husband is the legal father of the child. For parents who are unmarried, a father must sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) in order to be acknowledged as the child’s legal father. This form is usually completed at the time of a child’s birth, though it can be completed anytime. It sets out information about the mother, father and child, and must be signed by a witness over 18 (often medical professionals will do this for families that they have just assisted at a birth).
Once the VAP is signed, the father’s name will be added to the child’s birth certificate, but not before. If a VAP cannot be signed at the hospital, whether if you are unsure who the father is or if the father denies paternity, Illinois Child Support Services offers genetic testing as an option. A paternity test is a DNA test with 99.9 percent accuracy, though under Illinois law paternity may be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence (if you allege that fraud or mistake has happened, for example).
Disavowing or Disproving Paternity
Since Illinois law automatically assumes that a woman’s husband at the time of a child’s birth is the father of that child, it is necessary to have provisions for a man to be able to disavow or disprove his paternity.
If a man is married to a woman who gives birth, but the child is not his, he may sign a Denial of Paternity form. This form waives all parental rights and responsibilities, and all ability to legally make decisions for that child.
However, Illinois law has a peculiarity which is again, somewhat unkind to fathers: once a Denial of Paternity form has been signed, the mother and biological father must complete the VAP. If they do not, or if they do and then decide to rescind it, the husband or ex-husband is once again legally responsible for support of the child. It has been alleged that this places an undue burden on husbands, but so far no amendment to the law has been proposed.
A Paternity Lawyer Can Help
If you are in a position where you need to establish or disprove paternity of your child, the Wheaton, IL firm of Sullivan, Taylor & Gumina, P.C. can help. Call us today.