In this article, we explain the implications of a father’s name and signature being on a birth certificate, and what a father’s rights are if he is on the birth certificate of a minor child. For a foundational overview of Illinois paternity laws, check out our article, Illinois Paternity Law Explained.
If a married couple has a child, both parents will be on the birth certificate with equal rights in regards to the parental responsibility of the child. Unmarried couples, however, do not have the same rights as parents who are wed when they have a child together.
When an unwed father signs the birth certificate, he is acknowledging that he’s the biological and legal father of the child. His signing of the certificate indicates he agrees to the paternity of the child and is taking legal responsibility of the child. In this aspect, legal responsibility means he is liable for the financial support of the child only, and does not mean the father has legal rights to access or time-sharing responsibilities with the mother of the child.
For an unwed father to have legal parental responsibilities (such as access and time-sharing), he must obtain a court order defining his rights. To do so, the father must file a Petition to Establish Paternity with the court. Until such access and rights are granted by the court, the mother holds 100% control in the decision-making responsibilities and time-share allocation regarding the child.
Under Illinois law, paternity must be established before the unwed father’s name can even be added to the birth certificate. There are three ways to establish paternity:
When the unwed mother and father are in general agreement regarding the responsibilities and rights the father has when it comes to the newborn child, the VAP is the most common option. The VAP is a legal document that the hospital can provide the parents at the time of birth. The VAP can also, however, be completed, signed, witnessed and filed at any time for any child.
A common misperception of the VAP is that it automatically grants the father full rights to parental responsibilities. This is not the case. The VAP serves as the ability for the father to be named on the birth certificate, and therefore be liable for child support. Once paternity has been established and the father’s name is on the birth certificate, the father has the right to file an action to seek scheduled time with the child and participate in parental responsibilities with the child’s mother.
To learn more about how courts determine parental responsibilities, check out our article on Illinois Parenting Laws.