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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article we answer the question, “which state has jurisdiction in paternity cases?” and explain where to file your paternity case, with a particular view toward Illinois law. To learn more about Illinois paternity law and how to establish paternity, check out our article: Illinois Paternity Law Explained.

In order for a court to enter a binding order in a paternity case, it must have both subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction.  The case must also be filed in the proper venue, meaning the correct county court within the state.

What is Subject Matter Jurisdiction in Paternity Cases?

Subject matter jurisdiction, is the court’s ability to hear the particular type of case at hand.  In Illinois the state circuit courts have subject matter jurisdiction over paternity cases.  This means that paternity cases should be filed in state court rather than federal court.

What is Personal Jurisdiction in Paternity Cases?

Personal jurisdiction is the court’s ability to issue binding orders with respect to the particular parties to the case.  In order to enter a binding order in a paternity case, the state in which the case is filed must have personal jurisdiction over the party who did not file the case.  

According to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, which Illinois follows, a state has personal jurisdiction over an individual if any of the following are true:

  • The individual is a resident of the state;
  • The individual is personally served with notice within the state;
  • The individual consents to the state’s jurisdiction; this can be done by the party filing an appearance in the case or filing a response to the petition;
  • The individual has resided with the child in the state;
  • The individual has resided in the state and provided prenatal expenses or financial support for the child;
  • The child resides in the state as a result of the individual’s actions;
  • The child may have been conceived by the individual’s act of sexual intercourse within the state;
  • The individual asserted parentage in the state’s putative father registry; or
  • There is any other basis consistent with the state and federal constitution for the assertion of personal jurisdiction.

Child Support and Child Custody Jurisdiction

Even if a particular state has jurisdiction over a paternity case, it is important to consider jurisdiction over parenting rights and child support if you seek to have these issues resolved as part of the case.Child support jurisdiction is generally the same as that of paternity, however there are additional complexities when it comes to the enforcement or modification of child support orders. You can learn more about child support jurisdiction by reading our article, How to Determine Child Support Jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction over child custody cases differs from that of child custody cases, as it is based on the residence of the child, rather than the respondent parent’s contacts with the state.  You can learn more about child custody jurisdiction by reading our article, Child Custody Jurisdiction Explained. For this reason, if you are seeking to both establish paternity and parenting rights, it is generally most efficient to file in a state that has jurisdiction over both cases.

Proper Venue in Illinois Paternity Cases

Jurisdiction deals with whether the case was filed in the correct court system, meaning state versus federal court and one state versus another.  Venue deals with whether the case was filed in the proper court within that system.  In Illinois paternity cases, the case must be filed in the circuit court in the county in which a party resides.  If the alleged father is deceased, then the proper venue is the county in which the estate has been or can be filed. If parenting time and responsibilities are to be allocated as part of the proceeding, the case should be filed in the county where the child resides.

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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