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Wakenight & Associates, P.C.

1100 Lake Street, Suite 120, Oak Park, IL 60301

Oak Park | 708-848-3159

DuPage County | 630-852-9700   Mokena | 815-727-6144

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Oak Park parentage lawyer

When a baby is born to a married couple, there is usually no doubt that the husband is the father of that child. However, many couples have children outside of marriage, whether intentionally or not. If two unmarried people are in a romantic relationship and have a child together, the man is not automatically considered the legal father of the child even if the man and woman live together. The father’s name cannot be put on the birth certificate until paternity is established.

Legal Orders of Paternity

Paternity is defined under Illinois law as the legal relationship between a father and his child. It is important to know that paternity means the father is legally responsible for that child and is entitled to certain rights as a father. Paternity can be established legally by three different ways in Illinois:

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Cook County fathers' rights lawyerIn Illinois, the Putative Father Registry (PFR) is designed to help protect fathers’ rights and ensure that a child cannot be adopted without the father’s consent. Within 30 days after a child’s birth, the father should sign up with the PFR. For fathers who were not married to their child’s mother at the time of giving birth, it will also be necessary to establish paternity, which will need to be done by signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or by going through the Circuit Court Clerk or through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. The legal process to establish paternity must be started within 30 days of registering with the PFR. A family law attorney can help you with all of this.

What Does “Putative Father” Mean?

A putative father is a man who is the father of a child born to a mother when he was not married to her. He may even have been married to her before the birth. Regardless of the situation, he will need to follow the proper procedures to ensure that he proves his paternity and protects his rights as a father. Signing up with the Illinois Putative Father Registry is one action that will help keep his child from being put up for adoption without his consent. 

A putative father may sign up for the PFR before or after the birth of the child, even if his name is not on the child’s birth certificate, or even if paternity has not yet been legally established. Fathers under the age of 18 may also register with the PFR. If the child’s mother ever tries to put the child up for adoption, the father must be notified and may have the opportunity to stop the adoption process. 

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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. 

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