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Oak Park family law attorney paternity

When a couple is married and they have a baby, it is presumed that the man is the legal father of the child. However, when two people are not married, paternity (parentage) has to be legally established before the father is eligible for specific parental rights, and before the child is entitled to certain benefits. Studies have shown that children thrive most when they have a relationship with both of their parents, so confirming parentage is important for everyone’s best interests and well-being of all parties. Establishing parentage for children born out of wedlock can also help provide a basis for obtaining child support payments, and for fathers, it may be necessary for the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) and can allow them to be more involved in their child’s life moving forward.

Legally Recognizing Parentage 

In Illinois, when parents are in agreement on who the father of the child is, both parties can fill out and sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” (VAP) form, which legally establishes parentage. In situations where the parents do not agree on the father’s identity, they can do either one of the following:

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Oak Park family law attorney child custody

In today’s world, families come in all shapes and sizes, including parents who are not married. As an unmarried father, you may be wondering what your rights are with regard to your child. Historically, mothers have taken on the role of primary parent and caregiver. Illinois courts, however, often favor having both parents involved in the child’s life, so long as this is what is best for the child. If you are not married to your child’s mother, and do not intend to be, there are a few steps that you should take to be sure that your rights as a father are protected.

Establishing Paternity

Before any custody decisions are made, you have to legally establish yourself as the child’s father. For fathers who are married, this is accomplished by signing a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity” (“VAP”) form. The law assumes that a mother’s husband is the father of her child, and both parties recognize that this is true by signing a “VAP”. For parents who are not married, proving paternity requires a few additional steps. It is often advisable for unmarried fathers to obtain proof of their biological connection to their child. This involves taking a DNA paternity test to provide the court with proof of your connection to your child, and to ensure that your rights as the child’s father are upheld.

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Hillside paternity attorneyMany families take the concept of “paternity” for granted, assuming that the identity of the father is assumed and not under consideration. However, some families do not have this luxury. When parents are unmarried at the time of their child’s birth, the father will not always be automatically assumed to be the child’s legal parent. From a parenting standpoint, this may not be an issue for the mother, but there are many benefits that come along with legally recognizing a child’s father.

Benefits of Establishing Paternity

Legally naming a person as a child’s father can have both emotional and financial benefits. On the personal side of things, most children want to know their biological parents, whether they openly express this or not. Not knowing their father’s identity can leave a lingering question in the back of their minds. Some mothers or children may fear that knowing a father’s identity requires the child to have a relationship with him. However, even if a child does not want a  relationship with their father, it can still be beneficial to know who they are to resolve this internal questioning.

Financially, every child has a right to receive support from both of their biological parents. Children are entitled to child support to ensure that their ongoing needs are met. Depending on their father’s occupation and insurance coverage, children may also be eligible to receive health insurance benefits. Children are also eligible to receive any Social Security benefits, Veteran’s benefits, or an inheritance upon their father’s death.

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Hillside legal parentage lawyer

Parentage (which is also known as paternity) is the legal relationship between a parent and his or her child. If a couple was married or in a civil union when their child was born or within 300 days before the birth, the mother’s spouse is presumed to be the father. However, if the mother and father were not married or in a civil union, paternity must be legally established. Naming a child’s legal parents is important, because it ensures that both parents have a right to participate in the allocation of parental responsibilities, and it allows the child to receive the necessary child support. For fathers who are trying to protect their parental rights or mothers who wish to confirm the parentage of their child, it is important to speak to an experienced family law attorney.       

Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity

If there is a mutual agreement between two parties about who the father is, a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) can be completed, signed, and filed with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS). This will allow the father's name to be added to the child's birth certificate. A VAP can be completed at any time after the child is born, and the signing must be witnessed by a person who is 18 years or older who is not named on the document. 

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Hillside child support attorney divorce paternityWhen an unmarried couple has a child but later splits up, or when a married couple gets a divorce, or when a couple was not in a relationship to begin with, it is typically necessary to set up child support in which one parent makes a recurring payment to the other parent for the benefit of the child. While this is often achieved without difficulty, that is not always the case.

Child Support for Divorced Parents 

During the divorce process, child support is one of the most important child-related issues to resolve, along with the allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly referred to as custody) and parenting time (previously called visitation). In 2017, Illinois adopted what is known as an “income-sharing model” for calculating child support, in an attempt to allow children to maintain the same standard of living as they would have if their parents were married.

Child support amounts are determined from a table provided by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (IDHFS), which takes the combined monthly net income of the parents and assigns a corresponding support figure which increases according to the number of children the parents share. Each parent is responsible for a portion of this amount based on how much they contribute to the combined income.

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