Are You the Father?

Legal Assistance from Our Illinois Family Lawyers

For some men, the prospect of paternity is exciting and marks a step forward in life. For others, paternity is something to avoid. Whatever the view, paternity is the term for a man's legal relationship and responsibilities. It has broad implications and should be addressed quickly and seriously to ensure both the child's and the father's rights are protected from the start.

By establishing paternity early, the child's rights to medical insurance, life insurance, social security, or veterans' benefits are better protected. Securing a father's rights can prevent a child from being put up for adoption or taken out of the state without the father's permission. Moreover, custody and visitation issues will not be addressed until paternity is resolved.

Establishing Paternity in Illinois

When a married woman gives birth, her husband is the legally presumed father of the baby. The same presumption applies if the couple was married when the baby was conceived, but separated afterward. If the biological parents were not married, the man is not legally considered the baby's father and he must establish paternity to be named on the child's birth certificate and to claim any paternal rights.

Paternity can be established three ways in Illinois:

  • Both parents can complete and sign a "voluntary acknowledgment of paternity” (VAP)
  • The state can enter an "administrative paternity order"
  • An Illinois court can enter an order of paternity

Each method has its own specific steps to follow.

Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity

A VAP form can be filled out and signed by both biological parents while the mother and baby are still in the hospital. The form is self-explanatory and requires the signatures of both parents and a witness who is at least 18 years old. While a VAP form can be completed at any time, the biological father's name may be placed on the baby's birth certificate if the form is completed early enough.

Administrative Paternity Order

To establish paternity, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services' Division of Child Support Services can enter an administrative paternity order against the presumed father. Generally, HFS will interview the mother to get paternity information, and the father to determine whether he will acknowledge paternity or if genetic testing is necessary. However, HFS can declare an alleged father the legal father if he chooses not to meet with HFS representatives.

Court Order of Paternity

The Illinois Attorney General or one of the State Attorney's offices can represent HFS in court. Legal proceedings are initiated by issuing a summons for the alleged father, who must be served before the process of determining paternity can begin. The court will enter an order of paternity if the alleged father admits paternity or if he fails to appear after being properly served.

If the alleged father denies paternity, or cannot admit or deny for lack of knowledge, the court orders genetic testing. The test results should be ready after approximately 45 to 70 days. Should the father continue to deny paternity despite a positive test result, the matter proceeds to the discovery phase in preparation for trial. If paternity is established at any point, the court orders appropriate child support, custody, and visitation rights and obligations.

Contact Our Skilled Lawyers Today

Paternity is an important legal relationship and determining it early is always in the best interest of the child. If you or a loved one is involved in a paternity matter, contact an experienced Illinois family law attorney from Wakenight & Associates, P.C. to discuss your situation and receive careful guidance through the process.

We have offices near you in Oak Park, Mokena, Aurora, Elmhurst, Burr Ridge, St. Charles, Northbrook, Schaumburg, and Chicago Loop.

Call us in:

  • Cook County: (708) 480-9651
  • DuPage, Kane, or Kendall Counties: (630) 528-0734
  • Will, Kankakee, Grundy, or South Cook Counties: (815) 458-5660