Wheaton, IL family law attorney for paternity and child custodyIf you have a child while you are unmarried, establishing legal paternity provides important benefits to the child, and it can also help both mothers and fathers protect their parental rights. However, it is important to understand exactly what legal paternity entails to determine whether further legal action may be necessary, especially in cases in which you wish to confirm or deny the right to custody and parenting time.

What Benefits Does Legal Paternity Provide in Illinois?

For a child, establishing legal paternity ensures access to financial support from both parents in order to provide for regular needs, including shelter, food, clothing, healthcare, and education. The child can also benefit from the father’s health insurance, life insurance, government benefits including Social Security, an inheritance in the event of his death, as well as information from the father’s medical history that may make better medical care possible for the child.

For the parents, establishing legal paternity usually means that the father will be obligated to make regular child support payments to the mother. The father will also likely have the right to consent to or contest possible future decisions regarding the child’s adoption. The father also has the right to petition for allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, but this is not automatically guaranteed.

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DuPage County paternity attorney DNA testingYou might think being able to use science to determine paternity with absolute certainty through DNA testing would make family law cases much easier, especially when it comes to defining child custodychild support, and parenting time. However, the truth is that it can actually complicate things even more than intended. Here is how introducing DNA testing into the legal process has changed paternity, fatherhood, and father's rights:

Why Paternity Is So Complex, Especially Now With DNA Testing

Paternity has always been a complex issue, but before DNA testing, according to the law, it was relatively simple: if you were married, and your wife had a baby, you were considered the father. However, as many people know—and even knew then—it is rarely that simple in actuality. Now that medical technology has caught up with the dilemmas surrounding paternity, DNA testing has provided the courts with an exact, indisputable science to determine the identity of a child’s father.

You might think this has made things easier, but it has actually caused great cognitive dissonance for many fathers. A father may spend years thinking a child was his and raising that child as his own, only to discover during the divorce process that he is not the child’s biological father. He would not want to disrespect and lose that beautiful relationship with his son or daughter just because he did not want to be responsible for child support payments. At the same time, he may feel a sense of resentment when paying support for a child that was not even his. What is a father to do?

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Wheaton paternity lawyerWhen it comes to fathers’ rights, paternity is the building block upon which all other parenting decisions are made with regards to child custody. Proving that you are or are not the father of the child can make a world of painful difference, be it emotional when you realize you may no longer be entitled to parenting time or financial when a court rules that you must pay child support for a child being raised by another man. Depending on your situation, you might want to consider legal action.   

What to Do if the Divorce Proceedings Uncover Paternity Issues

If somehow during your divorce, your wife says the child you have cared for during the marriage over the last several years — the same one you cradled to bed as a baby, took to the park as a toddler, and brought to the movies as a schoolchild — is not actually yours, you will need to make the proper legal arrangements and begin developing a winning strategy to protect your rights as a father. In particular, consider the following:

How was the paternity originally established? In Illinois, there are only four possible ways to establish paternity:

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DuPage County Paternity AttorneyUnless the state has revoked your parental rights, every father has the right to establish paternity with their biological child. Numerous studies have shown establishing paternity is in a child’s best interests, as those who have a relationship with both of their parents excel in more areas. In addition to these psychological benefits, establishing paternity also has numerous financial and medical benefits for the child.

The process of establishing paternity is relatively straightforward if both parents agree. In some cases, however, establishing paternity is made much more difficult. This includes situations in which more than one man believes they are the father, or the mother wishes to raise the child on her own. Still, a father can successfully establish paternity even if the biological mother contests it.

Sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity

The easiest way for a father to establish paternity is to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) at the time of the child’s birth. These forms are available at the hospital. If the parent seeking paternity was married to the mother at conception or any point during the pregnancy, paternity is automatically established and the husband at the time is considered the presumed father. Presumed fathers do not need to sign a VAP because paternity is already determined.

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Posted on in Paternity

Wheaton paternity lawyerBecoming a parent is one of the many significant milestones in life. It is a chance for you to pass on your knowledge and your legacy to the next generation. As we quickly discover, that legacy is well-earned through the many responsibilities we undertake as parents. We must make an enormous amount of decisions and sacrifices for our children, including providing for their medical care and education, as well as the financial costs required to provide them with an acceptable standard of living.

Unfortunately, information sometimes emerges that paternity is no longer certain, and a parent may be providing for a child who belongs to someone else. This emotionally charged situation happens more than you might guess. For this reason, there is a set legal procedure for disestablishing paternity, which effectively severs the obligation to pay child support or other financial requirements in the future.

If You Are Not the Presumed Father or Have Not Signed a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP)

If you are married to a child’s mother at the conception or birth of the child, Illinois acknowledges you as the presumed father, making you the legal father of the child in question. If you were not married to the mother at that time and have not signed a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form, it is possible to disestablish paternity by completing a Petition to Establish the Non-Existence of a Parent-Child Relationship.

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