When a woman gives birth to a child, she automatically becomes the child’s legal mother. Similarly, when a married woman gives birth, her husband is presumed to be the child’s father. The father will not need to take any additional steps to become the legal parent of his or her child. However, the same is not true for unmarried fathers. An unmarried father must formally establish paternity in order to be the official parent of his child. There are several ways that parents can establish paternity in Illinois.
Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity
The easiest and most straightforward way to establish paternity in Illinois is for both parents to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP). A VAP form is typically available at the hospital after the baby is born. You can also obtain a VAP through the county clerk's office, local registrar of vital records, local Department of Human Services office, or child support services office. A VAP must be signed by both parents, so this option may not work in some situations. If your child’s father does not acknowledge his parentage, he will likely refuse to sign a VAP. In this case, you will need to pursue other avenues for establishing paternity.
Administrative Paternity Order
If your child’s father contests that he is the biological father of your child, you may need to pursue an administrative paternity order. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) will first act as a liaison and attempt to establish paternity without the need for legal intervention. If the biological relationship between the alleged father and child is in question, the DHFS will schedule DNA testing and require the father to attend an interview. If the father does not show up to the interview, the DHFS can declare him to be the child’s legal father by default.
In some situations, paternity cannot be established outside of court. If court intervention is necessary, the DHFS is represented by the State’s Attorney’s Office during the paternity hearing. Both parents are required to attend the court hearing. If the father is not present at the paternity hearing, the judge can establish paternity in his absence.
After paternity is established, the father will be subject to Illinois laws regarding child support. However, establishing paternity does not automatically establish child support. You will need to obtain a child support order through the family courts in order to start receiving child support....