Father reading to his sonsAccording to the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984, the state recognizes “the right of every child to the physical, mental, emotional and monetary support of his or her parents.” The law provides that “the parent and child relationship, including support obligations, extends equally to every child and to every parent, regardless of the marital status of the parents.”

If a child is born out of wedlock, it can be a challenge for men to prove their parentage without the help of Illinois family law attorneys. While state law gives unwed parents the same rights as divorced parents, the court must first establish the paternity of a child before awarding those rights.

The right to claim paternity

In Illinois, there are several ways for fathers to establish their paternity, including the following:

  • A Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form signed by both parents
  • An Administrative Paternity Order from the Department of Healthcare and Family Services
  • An Order of Paternity issued by a judge
  • Marriage after the birth of the child

The VAP form tends to be the simplest way to establish paternity. It is provided to unwed parents in the hospital immediately following the birth of a child, but Illinois family law attorneys can also provide forms for parents later on.

The right to maintain a relationship with children

For many, the most important biological fathers’ rights include spending time with children. Once paternity is established, state law allows fathers to be awarded visitation and regular contact, whether in person or over the phone, as outlined by an agreement and schedule created by both parents or by the court.

The right to stop third-party adoption

If an unwed mother wants to give her baby up for adoption, the biological father can prevent her from doing so. A punitive father registry is offered by the state to notify biological fathers of any pending adoption proceedings.

The right to share custody and make collaborative decisions

Most states, including Illinois, recognize that it is important for the well-being of children to have both parents involved in their lives. By establishing paternity, fathers can claim the right to joint legal custody, allowing them to work with the mother of their children to make decisions regarding education, medical care, religion and more.

The importance of legal aid

Establishing paternity can require extensive paperwork, and without assistance from Illinois family law attorneys, fathers may find that the process can be frustrating and tricky. Paternity laws can be complex, but an attorney may help many fathers fully establish their rights and responsibilities.