Verifying paternity is required for all child support matters, for establishing visitation rights and for challenging adoptions. A DNA test is conducted to establish paternity, and once the results are obtained and recognized by the court, child support can be ordered, visitation arrangements put in place or an adoption challenged.
The Law Office of Paul M. Marriett in Rockford can help you understand how you can be named the legal father of your child if you were never married to the mother, or how you can prove that a man is the father of your child if, for example, you’re seeking child support in a paternity suit.
Attorney Paul M. Marriett considers all necessary steps needed for verifying paternity. Once established, we can help you petition the court for child support payments or visitation rights. If an adoption is involved, we can initiate legal action to halt or reverse an adoption if you were not notified according to the requirements of the law.
For a free consultation to discuss questions regarding paternity, call the Law Office of Paul M. Marriett at (815) 391-0089 to set up an appointment, or contact us securely through our website. We are a Rockford, Illinois-based law firm, handling child support cases in Rockford, Machesney Park, Loves Park and Winnebago County, as well as neighboring Illinois communities.
FAQs Regarding Paternity
How Do I Know if Legal Paternity Has Been Established?
In Illinois, a man is a child’s legal father only if one of the following is true:
- He was married to the child’s mother when the child was born or when the child was conceived (or both)
- He married the mother after the child’s birth and he is listed with his permission (as of August 9, 1996, his written permission is needed) on the child’s birth certificate
- There is a court order or Department of Public Aid administrative order of paternity
- He and the mother have signed a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage” or “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” form
Who Can Petition to Establish Paternity?
Either the natural mother, someone who believes he is the father of a child or the child can establish paternity.
Who Should Establish Paternity?
A father who is not married to the mother of his child should establish paternity if he wants his parental rights and is willing to accept his parental responsibilities.
If I Am Established as the Father, What Are My Rights?
Unless the other parent can prove you are a danger to the child, you have the right to a normal father/child relationship. You will have visitation rights with your child if you are not given custody.
If I Am Established as the Father, What Are My Obligations?
Generally, until the child turns 18, you must provide financial support. You must support your children even if you are not allowed to see them. Financial support for a child may include child support payments, medical insurance, life insurance and college expenses. Also, if you are required to pay support, then you must notify the other parent and the Clerk of the Court of any change in employment. This must be done within seven days of your new employment and must be done in writing. If you do not pay your child support when it is due, you will owe interest on the amount owed after 30 days from the date that it is due.
What if I Don’t Establish Paternity?
If you don’t establish paternity, then you will have no legal right to be involved in your child’s life. Also, if you do not register with the Putative Father Registry within 30 days of your child’s birth and initiate paternity proceedings within 30 days of registering, your child can be adopted without your knowledge or consent and you will permanently lose all rights to the child. You can register before the birth of the child, but no later than 30 days after the birth of the child. If you wait more than two years after the child turns 18 or is emancipated, you may never be able to get rights to your child. Your child also wukk not be able to inherit from you without a will or get any benefits, such as Social Security, through you.
How Can I Establish Paternity if the Mother of the Child Agrees That I am the Father?
If you are sure that you are the father, and the mother agrees, then you can establish paternity without going to court. To do this, you both must sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity. The Law Office of Paul M. Marriett can help you obtain this form. You may also get this form at your local county clerk’s office, the hospital where the child was born or from the Illinois Department of Public Health. But if the mother of your child is married, or was married at the time the child was born, then you must get the husband or ex-husband to sign a Voluntary Denial of Paternity form to say he is not the father. You must do this even if the mother agrees that you are the father. This form is also available from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
How Can I Establish Paternity if the Mother of the Child Does Not Want Me to Be Named the Legal Father?
If the mother does not want you to be named the legal father, then you must file a petition in court to establish paternity and custody. As part of the paternity case, the judge can order who the child will live with, when the parent not living with the child can visit the child and terms of child support.
What is the Public Aid Administrative Hearing?
Paternity can be established in a hearing before a Public Aid hearing officer instead of a judge. In most cases, the mother must name who the father is in order to receive public aid. (Exceptions may be allowed when, for example, the father is a serious danger to the mother). Lawyers working for the state then get a paternity and child support order. The Department of Public Aid plans to start using the administrative procedure for these cases rather than going to court. The administrative order has the same effect as a court order and may include an order for payment of child support.
Are There Time Limits on Paternity Cases?
There are time limits on when a paternity case can be filed in court, but the law is not clear on this. In many cases, the court case can be filed until the child’s 18th birthday, and in certain cases until he or she is 20. A father may not be able to bring a paternity case if he has not visited, supported or communicated with the child for at least 3 years. It is usually best to file a paternity case as soon as possible, while the child is young and the evidence is fresh. It also is very important for the father to file with the Putative Father Registry immediately upon the child’s birth.
When Should I Talk to a Lawyer?
The state of Illinois recommends you consult a lawyer if:
- You want to get custody of your child, but the mother does not agree
- You think that the mother of the child will say you are a danger to her or the child
- You have waited more than two years after the child has turned 18 or is emancipated to establish paternity
- The child is not living with you or the mother
- You do not know where the mother or the child is
How Much Will It Cost?
There is a fee to file the Petition to Establish Parentage and for Custody. If you can prove that your income is too low to afford this, you or the Law Office of Paul M. Marriett may fill out an Application and Order to Sue or Defend as an Indigent Person, which asks the court to let you file for free.
What Happens if the Mother and I Can’t Agree on Paternity in Court?
If the mother says you are not the father, or you ask for a blood test in your complaint, then the judge will order blood tests or DNA tests for you, the mother and the child. The test results will prove whether you are the father. The test results will be mailed to you before the next court date.
Is There a Way to Get Low-Cost Genetic Testing to Find Out if I am the Parent of a Child?
The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services runs a program called the Division of Child Support Services to help parents collect child support payments, establish paternity and locate a non-custodial parent. You can get the Child Support Application online or by calling the Child Support Customer Service Call Center at 1-800-447-4278 (TTY: 1-800-526-5812) and asking for an application. Once you are in the program, you and the other parent can sign a voluntary Agreement to be Bound by the Results of Genetic Testing. Public Aid will provide the testing, and if you are the father they will enter an Administrative Paternity Order and notify the Department of Public Health, Vital Records unit to add your name to the birth certificate. This means that you will have established legal paternity.
What if the Test Results Show That I am Not the Father?
If that result is satisfactory to you, the Law Office of Paul M. Marriett will have an order entered that states you are not the father. If that result is not satisfactory, a second test can be asked for. The court most likely be order you to pay for it. If the judge decides you are not the father after testing, and you have had a relationship with the child that you want to maintain, you may still do so. You will need to talk to work with an attorney.
What if the Test Results Show That I am the Father?
On the first court date after you receive the results, the Law Office of Paul M. Marriett will ensure that a court order is entered finding that you are the legal father of the child.
What if, Even After the Test Results Show that I am the Father, the Child’s Mother and I Cannot Agree on Other Issues?
If you have not agreed on the other issues, your case will be set for another court date. Your attorney will ask the judge for an order that finds that you are the legal father of the child and sets the case for another court date. If you and the mother cannot agree on custody or a visitation schedule, then the judge may send you to mediation. If you and the mother still can’t agree on custody or a visitation schedule after mediation, the judge will decide. The judge also will set child support terms based on the net income of the non-custodial parent. The Law Office of Paul M. Marriett will assist if you want custody and the mother does not agree. A contested custody case can be difficult without a lawyer.
Can the Law Office of Paul M. Marriett Help Me Get My Name on (or off) the Birth Record?
Yes. To set up a free consultation to get your name on — or off — a birth record, please call the Law Office of Paul M. Marriett at (309) 756-8244 or reach our office by email.
Is My Child’s Last Name Automatically Changed When I am Added to the Birth Record as the Father?
No. The child’s last name is not automatically changed. If the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form is used, a separate request is required. If the legitimation forms are used, there is a space on the form to change the name. If the parents obtain an administrative or judicial paternity order, the parents will need a separate written request signed by both parents asking that the child’s name is changed. If the parents obtain a court order that indicates a name change, then the parents do not need to also sign a written request for the name change. The parents’ written request or court order must show how the child’s name is to appear on the new birth record.