When unwed couples in Illinois have children, there is no presumption regarding their kids' parentage as there is for married couples or those who are in civil unions. While the fatherly relationship men in such situations share with their children may be the same as married dads' relationships with their children, they do not have the same legal rights to their kids. Therefore, it is important that unwed men take steps to establish legal parent-child relationships.
According to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, the easiest way for people to establish paternity for a child is to sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, or VAP, form. This legal document can be obtained at the hospital at the time of their child's birth, or parents can get it later online or from the offices of their local child support agency, the Department of Human Services, the county clerk, or the state or local registrar. Once a VAP form is completed, signed and filed with Healthcare and Family Services, the father's name is added to a child's birth certificate and his legal relationship with that child is established.
If there are questions regarding a child's parentage, people may choose to perform genetic testing instead of signing a VAP. Paternity may then be established through an administrative order from child support services or judicially by the court. According to state law, petitions to adjudicate parentage for a child may be brought by people including the child, the child's mother or a pregnant woman, a man or woman presumed or alleged to be the child's parent, and Healthcare and Family Services or another support-enforcement agency.
Establishing paternity is important for unwed fathers as it allows them to access their parental rights, including the ability to seek custody of or visitation time with their children. It also helps ensure children get the financial support and care they need, and deserve, from both their parents.