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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we will answer the question, "is a paternity test required for child support?" We will discuss when paternity must be established before the entry of a child support order, as well as the different methods of establishing paternity in Illinois. For a more in-depth overview of Illinois paternity law that provides foundational information on the subject, check out our article, Illinois Paternity Law Explained.

When Do You Have to Establish Paternity Before Getting Child Support?

Paternity is the legal acknowledgment of the relationship between a father and his child. If the mother was in a civil union or married when the child was born, the father is presumed to be the person to whom the mother was married. In this situation, the father's name can go on the birth certificate at the time of birth. In these cases, child support is usually determined as part of the divorce case without the establishment of paternity becoming an issue.

In cases in which a child is born to parents who are not married, paternity must be established before the court can enter a child support order. 

How to Establish Paternity in Illinois

If the mother and father are unmarried at the time of the child's birth, paternity is not immediately assumed. This absolves the father of any immediate child support or other legal action until paternity has been established, either through the father's voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or by testing. Paternity can be established either voluntarily by consent of both parents or involuntarily through a petition to establish paternity. 

Establishing Paternity By Consent in Illinois

The first way to prove paternity is by an In-Hospital Paternity Affidavit, or a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity Form, which is signed by both the mother and the father either while still in the hospital after the child's birth or later at the local health department. A paternity affidavit is a signed document stating the person signing it recognizes that he is the child's father. This can be filed with the court along with a petition to establish paternity by consent and an order establishing paternity for the judge to sign. Once paternity is established by this method, the mother can later file a petition requesting that a child support order be entered.

If the alleged father willingly signed the paternity affidavit, then he will have 60 days to revoke his voluntary paternity and request for a DNA test to be completed. If the alleged father wishes to revoke the affidavit after 60 days, he must show in court that he was tricked or forced to sign it.

Establishing Paternity Involuntarily In Illinois

Typically, prior to court intervention, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services will step in and attempt to mediate a paternity agreement between the mother and alleged father. HFS typically can conduct a genetic test and schedule an interview with the alleged father to determine paternity. If the father misses the meeting, he is usually assumed to be the child's legal father and, therefore, must handle the legal responsibilities. If HFS cannot determine paternity, the court will become involved.

If either party is unwilling to establish paternity by consent, the other party may file a petition to establish paternity with the circuit court. The burden of proof is on the person seeking to establish paternity. However, in many situations where the parties had been married or in a civil union within a year of the child's birth, the husband will be considered the "presumed father." In these cases, the burden shifts to the presumed father to prove that they are not the father.

How to Prove Paternity in Illinois

Both parties will present evidence for their position in a contested paternity case. This may include witness testimony, medical records, and other documentation. The most common form of proof is a DNA test. Either party may request the DNA test. The father is not required to take a DNA test, but if he refuses to do so, this will weigh heavily against his case. 

The DNA test is not conclusive in paternity cases. It is weighed along with the other evidence presented by the parties. However, depending on the clarity of the test results, it may exclude the father from paternity leading to the dismissal of the case or raising the presumption of paternity that must be rebutted by the party denying paternity.

The paternity testing is conducted via a cheek swab, and DNA will be requested from the alleged father, the mother, and the child. If the test is meant to prove paternity and must be able to stand up in court, it will be more expensive than a test that is simply for one's own curiosity.

If the court rules in favor of the party seeking to establish paternity, the court can deal with issues of child support either in the same order or after a subsequent hearing. To learn more about how child support is handled in paternity cases, check out Illinois Paternity Law Explained.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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