When a non-marital relationship results in the birth of a child, a male can face significant challenges when establishing paternity and asserting a claim for custody. If the grounds for a presumption of paternity are not met, you may need the assistance of the courts for a formal declaration of paternity and the granting of custody and/or visitation.
A Paternity Presumption
The state of Illinois presumes child paternity in three situations:
- the male is married to the mother at the time of conception and/or delivery;
- the male marries that mother after the birth and consents to being listed as the father on the birth certificate; or
- both parents sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form.
If none of these situations apply, and the child’s mother is not willing to name you as the biological father, you will need to take another route for the establishment of paternity.
Routes to Establishing Paternity in Illinois
To officially establish paternity, you need an order from the court or an Administrative Paternity Order from the Illinois State Department of Health Care and Family Service, Division of Child Support Services.
The administrative process generally begins with communications between an agency representative and the child’s mother. Once information is gathered, the alleged father is given the opportunity to voluntarily consent to paternity. If he refuses to consent, genetic testing is scheduled. Failure to appear for the interview, or take part in agency ordered genetic testing, can result in a default finding of paternity.
Males wishing to establish their paternity of a child may do so by initiating a claim in the family court. Once the petition is filed, you must serve it on the mother to give her an opportunity to answer. If the mother contests the paternity, the court may order paternity testing. If the test proves paternity, the court will issue an order of paternity. You may use this order to have your name placed on the child’s birth certificate.
Establishing Custody and/or Visitation
Once paternity is established, you may petition the court for custody and/or visitation if you are unable to reach a mutual agreement with the mother. Keep in mind that the best interest of the child is always the standard in a child custody case. Therefore, outside of some uncommon circumstance, it is unreasonable to expect full physical custody if you are brand new to the child’s life. This is especially true in the case of an older child. For visitation orders, the allotted time frame for visits may be short in the beginning, as the child gradually grows more comfortable with you.
The determination of paternity may allow you to exercise legal custody of the child, such as making decisions about schooling and medical needs. It also creates a financial obligation, where the court orders you to pay support to the mother or custodian of the child.
If you are seeking to establish your paternity of a child, contact the Law Office of Elizabeth J. Chacko, P.C. today for assistance with your case. Serving clients in Wheaton, Carol Stream and Lombard, our attorneys are available to assist you and your family.