Becoming a father is one of the most exciting experiences a man can have. Unfortunately, interpersonal relationships are often very complicated and can make the joys of fatherhood seem unattainable. This is particularly true for fathers who are not married to the mother of their children.

A lack of familiarity with their legal rights combined with a desire to avoid conflict with the mother can impact how much time fathers spend with their children or even their legal right to visit. Don’t let a lack of information or fear about interpersonal drama prevent you from spending time with your child.

As a father, you have the right to see your child and the obligation to provide for them. Establishing paternity is an important first step toward enforcing your rights and embracing your responsibilities.

Birth certificates help establish paternity

One of the easiest ways to establish yourself as the father of your child is to have your name listed on the birth certificate. If you are married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth, it is a relatively straightforward process to have your name listed on the birth certificate.

If you aren’t married, the situation becomes more complicated. The mother will have to agree to your name on the birth certificate. Provided that she acknowledges that you are the father, it may be easy to convince her to add your name. After all, if you are the father on the birth certificate, you must provide child support. If she does not agree, you may need to take further action.

You and the mother can agree to sign a form

In a situation where you didn’t know about your child or didn’t seek to legally establish the relationship at the time of birth, you may wonder what options you have. Provided that the mother agrees that you are the father and is willing to work with you, you can both execute a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form.

This document includes signatures from both you and the mother of the child-affirming that you are the father. A VAP can help you have an existing birth certificate amended to include your name.

If the mother won’t cooperate, you will likely need to go to court

There are many reasons why the mother of your child may deny your paternity. She may legitimately believe that someone else is the father. There may also be benefits to convincing someone else he is the father. Other times, the mother simply wants to avoid shared custody and the complications that it brings.

Regardless of her intentions, it is almost always in the best interest of the children involved to have a relationship with both of their parents. If the mother won’t acknowledge you as the father, you may have to ask the Illinois courts to intervene.

The courts can compel the mother to present the child for genetic testing. That testing can then either affirm your paternity or conclusively resolve the issue. Provided that the genetic test indicates you are the father, you will then have the ability to seek shared custody or visitation. It will also be possible for the courts to order child support if you do not have fully shared custody.

Although it can be a complicated process, particularly when the mother is uncooperative, establishing paternity is an important step for unmarried fathers who want to play a positive role in the lives of their children.