Illinois legal disputes over paternity typically concern a father’s responsibility for paying child support and/or the right to visitation or custody.
Even if a father has not signed a statement of paternity, such as signing off on a birth certificate, he may still be responsible for child support. If a father refuses to voluntarily sign a paternity statement, the state will sometimes take the matter to court to establish that he is in fact the father and make him legally responsible for child support in order to reduce the potential welfare expense to the state. In lieu of the state, the mother may bring the matter before the court to compel the father to assume responsibility also.
If the father signs an acknowledgment of paternity or a paternity statement sometime after the child’s birth, his parental rights will likely be established if their is no dispute over custody. Once legal parentage is established, the parent has the right to ask for significant decision-making responsibility for the child and/or parenting time with the child, and can be ordered to pay child support. Unmarried fathers have similar rights to those married, particularly if the father promptly and consistently attempts to form a paternal relationship with a young child, which may or may not have been met with the mother’s interference.
If there is a dispute between unmarried parents regarding parentage of a child, there are time limits for filing a parentage case in court to obtain parental rights. If the child already has another legal parent in addition to the natural mother, such as a presumed, acknowledged or adjudicated father, someone else claiming to be the father needs to file a case as soon as possible – as little as 2 years may be allowed depending on the circumstances. Even if you file your case within the time limits, the judge can refuse to order or consider DNA testing to prove you are the father if the child already has a legal parent and it would not be in the child’s best interests to disrupt that relationship.
If you are in a Illinois paternity dispute regarding the legal parentage of your child, getting the help of an experienced family law attorney is important. Regardless of whether you want to start collecting child support from your children’s father or you are a father interested in establishing visitation rights with your children, the attorneys of Schlesinger & Strauss LLC can help you.