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How Unmarried Fathers Can Protect Their Parental Rights

 Posted on March 22, 2019 in Family Law

Skokie paternity lawyerFor decades now, paternity has been most often determined by a father being married to the child’s mother at the time of birth. Under Illinois law, if the biological father of a child is not married to the child’s mother, he cannot be listed on the child’s birth certificate until parentage is legally established. This is true even in cases in which the parents live together in a civil union, and even when the parents are engaged to be married.

How Is Paternity Established for Unmarried Couples?

If there is no disagreement between parents about the paternity, the simplest way to establish parentage is through a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form. This form must be signed by both parents and filed with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). This can be done in the hospital at the time of the child’s birth. If it is not completed then, a form can be obtained from the HFS website, a child support office, a county clerk’s office, a state/local registrar’s office, or a Department of Human Services office.

If there is some doubt or controversy about the child’s paternity, then the VAP should not be signed, as it can be difficult to reverse. If paternity is not voluntarily acknowledged, there are two other ways to establish paternity. The first is through an Administrative Paternity Order, entered by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services Child Support Services. The second is through an Order of Paternity entered in court. Genetic testing may be done to compare the child’s DNA to the father’s and determine whether there is a match. A paternity case can be pursued until a child reaches the age of 20. 

What Rights Does an Unmarried Father Have?

An unmarried birth father should have all the same rights to his child as any mother or married father. In the past, mothers had the choice to give children up for adoption without approval from the father. Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled against that policy, since in today’s society, it has become fairly commonplace for parents to have children out of wedlock. A father who has not been named a child's legal parent may register with the Putative Father Registry to ensure that he will be involved in any decisions about his child's adoption. Whether he was ever married to a child’s mother or not, a father should, aside from exceptional cases involving abuse or mental health concerns, have every opportunity to bond with his child and form a relationship through parenting time with the child. 

Of course, with parental rights come responsibilities as well. Both parents must provide necessities for their child, including food, clothing shelter, health insurance, education, love, attention, emotional support, and more. Both parents also have a right to access the child’s medical and school records, and they must maintain reasonable communication with one another about anything important involving the child.

Contact an Oak Park Paternity Lawyer

Wakenight & Associates, P.C., can help you with your paternity or parentage case. If you need help establishing paternity, or if you feel your rights as a father are being denied, contact an experienced Cook County family law attorney. If you have any questions about the Putative Father Registry or the statute of limitations for paternity cases, contact us to discuss your concerns. Call 708-480-9651 to set up a free consultation.


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