Fathers who are involved in family law court cases usually want to make sure their parental rights will be protected. When a married couple with children gets divorced, both parents will usually have the right to share custody (now known as “parental responsibilities” in Illinois) of their children. However, if a child’s parents are unmarried, the father likely may first need to establish paternity before he will have any legal child custody rights. By understanding when it may be necessary to establish paternity and the rights that will apply to parents and children in paternity cases, fathers can make sure they take the correct legal steps that will allow them to maintain close, ongoing relationships with their children.
Establishing Legal Paternity in Illinois
If a mother is married when her child is born, by law her spouse is presumed to be the parent of the child. However, if the mother is not married, she and the father may need to take steps to ensure that the father will be recognized as the child’s parent. Even if both parents agree that a man is the child’s father, a failure to legally establish paternity may result in disputes in the future if the parents disagree about how they will share custody, or about other subjects. Without legal rights toward the child, the father may be unable to participate in raising the child or spend regular time with them.
To avoid these types of problems, parents can establish paternity by signing a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity” form (“VAP”). This may be done immediately after the child’s birth, and hospital personnel can usually assist parents in the completion of this form. Parents may also agree to voluntarily acknowledge paternity at a later date, and they may do so by obtaining a form from their local courthouse or child support office. If both parents do not agree to acknowledge paternity, either parent may pursue a paternity case with the assistance of Illinois Child Support Services, or they may file a petition with the court and ask a judge to order genetic testing to confirm the identity of the child’s father.
Once paternity is legally established, a father will then have the right to share custody of the child. If the father and mother disagree about how child-related issues should be handled, they may need to address these issues in family court, or they may be able to negotiate an agreement using mediation or other methods. A child custody agreement or court order will spell out the allocation of parental responsibilities, which will determine how the parents will make decisions about how a child should be raised. This document will also state how parenting time will be divided, with a detailed schedule that describes when a child will live in each parent’s home or spend time with them on an ongoing basis. Both parents will also have the obligation to provide child support that will address a child’s daily needs and other necessary expenses.
Contact Our Hillside Paternity Lawyer
If you are concerned about your rights as a father, the [[title]] can help you understand your options for establishing paternity, creating a child custody agreement, and addressing other issues that may affect your family. We can also advise you as to the best ways to resolve disputes with your child’s other parent, and we can work to make sure your child’s best interests will be protected in the decisions that are made. Contact our Oak Park fathers’ rights attorney at [[phone]] to schedule a free consultation today.