Establishing paternity refers to the “state of being a father.” When a child is born to parents who are not married, who the father is may be in question. To establish paternity of a child, both parents can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VPA), typically available at the birth hospital, or alternatively, at an Office of Vital Records, the County Clerks Office or at your local Child Support Agency. Because signing a VPA establishes a father’s responsibility to financially support a child, if you have questions or concerns, it is important to contact an experienced Illinois family law attorney.
A biological mother or someone who believes they are the parent to a child may also establish parentage in court by filing a petition. At the hearing, the petitioner will testify before the judge and genetic testing will be ordered. If genetic testing proves parentage, child support will be ordered. Failure to respond to an order or submit to genetic testing may result in a default judgement of parentage.
It is also possible to establish paternity without going to court by way of an administrative paternity order entered by the state child support agency. The administrative process does not require a court hearing – parents may establish paternity by completing a VAP, or if the paternity is in dispute, genetic testing can be requested to determine parentage. If someone believed to be the parent fails to appear for genetic testing, paternity may be established by default and child support will be ordered.
Paternity suits may be filed until a child reaches the age of 20 years old. Retroactive child support may be ordered, although time limits may apply. Whether you are someone who believes they are the parent to a child or the biological mother, any time a paternity issue arises, concerns regarding child support and child custody follow. It is important to work with an experienced family law attorney who can protect your rights and the best interests of the child. Contact the Libertyville family law offices of Schlesinger & Strauss LLC for immediate assistance at 847-680-4970.