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How to Establish Paternity in Illinois

Updated on
November 6, 2020
Article written by
Attorney Christine Hunt

In this article we explain how to establish parentage (or paternity) in Illinois including:  

  • What is parentage?  
  • Why is establishing parentage important?  
  • Establishing parentage by completing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage in Illinois 
  • Establishing parentage by obtaining a judicial parentage order in Illinois  
  • Establishing parentage through an administration determination of Paternity or Nonpaternity through the Illinois Department of health care and Family Services  

 

In Illinois, there are three primary ways that parentage or paternity can be established. This article will explain what does parentage and paternity mean, why is establishing parentage or paternity important, how can parentage or paternity can be established, and the process involved in each method of establishing parentage or paternity. See this article (https://www.oflaherty-law.com/learn-about-law/paternity-law-explained) for more information relating to paternity.  

 

What is parentage? 

Parentage is the legal relationship between a parent and his or her child. Paternity refers to the legal relationship between a father and his child. The terminology in Illinois was changed from “paternity” to “parentage” to be inclusive of women who need to establish their parentage (i.e.- a woman in a same sex relationship who did not give birth to the child.) Parentage must be established for all non-married parents who did not give birth to the child. If the mother of a child is married when the child is conceived or born, the mother’s husband is presumed to the child’s father.  

 

Why is establishing parentage important?  

The formal legal establishment of the parent-child relationship is important for both the child and the parent for a number of reasons.  

 

Establishing parentage may give a child the right to the following benefits: 

  1. Inheritance rights in the event of the death of a parent who died without an estate plan  
  1. Social security benefits from a deceased or disabled parent  
  1. Veteran’s benefits  
  1. Health and life insurance benefits 
  1. Medical information  
  1. Having both parent’s name on the child’s birth certificate  

 

Establishing parentage may give the parent the following rights/ responsibilities: 

  1. Parenting time  
  1. Decision-making  
  1. Access to information about your child 
  1. Child support 

 

Establishing parentage by completing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage in Illinois 

It’s important to realize “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity,” “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage,” and “VAP” are terms that are used interchangeably, but “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage” is the full legal term that is utilized in Illinois. A Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage (VAP), is a legal document that can be used by unmarried partners to establish parentage without having to go to court. The form is completed by both parents, signed, witnessed, and then filed with the Department of health care and Family Services. For more information about VAP’s click here (link to separate article on VAPs) 

 

Establishing parentage by obtaining a judicial parentage order in Illinois 

The first step in establishing a judicial order of parentage is opening a parentage case and filing a Petition for Establishing Parentage. Generally, the case will be heard in the county in which the child resides. The other parent must be served or must voluntarily file an appearance in the case. The court will likely order DNA testing to determine paternity. A paternity test compares the DNA of the child, mother, and alleged father to determine if the man is the biological father of the child. The DNA sample is collected from each party with a painless cheek swab. The results will typically provide the probability of paternity. For example, “There is a 99.9% chance that this man is the biological father of the child.” The court will hold a hearing and a determination of parentage will be entered. Once a court enters an order of parentage, that parent is legally the parent of the child in question. 

 

Establishing parentage through an administration determination of Paternity or Nonpaternity through the Illinois Department of health care and Family Services  

Parentage is determined administratively as part of the child support administrative system. The administrative process is administered by the Illinois Department of health care and Family Services. This is separate from the court system. If you’re establishing your parentage through an administrative determination, the case will be handled by a Child Support Specialist, not a judge. The administrative process can be used to determinate parentage and child support. The administrative process cannot be used to determine allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly known as custody): parenting time or decision making, or financial settlements in a divorce.  


How to Establish Paternity in Illinois
Author

Attorney Christine Hunt

Christine has experience in family law including divorce, parentage, parenting time, parental allocation, child support, domestic violence, and post decree matters as well as estate planning and business law.

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