When you have a child in Illinois, you want to do everything possible to be a part of his or her life. However, if you are not married to the child’s mother, then you have no rights until you establish paternity. Legally, the mother has full custody of the child and is the only one who has the right to make decisions for him or her.
Establishing paternity enables you to have the right to the child. You can get legal custody rights, ensure your involvement in making decisions about the child and secure your spot in the child’s life. According to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, there are three ways you can establish paternity.
- Administrative Paternity Order
One option is to go through child support to get an order. The DHFS may help you in establishing the paternity order while also setting up your child support case. This usually requires some type of cooperation on the part of the mother, so it may not be the best option if you are not getting along or if she refuses to recognize you as the father of her child.
- Order of Paternity
You can also go through the court. You would file a case with the court and attend court hearings to get an order to establish your rights as the father of the child. A judge will make the final ruling, usually after you take a DNA test.
- Sign Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity
This is the easiest way to handle paternity, but it requires that both you and the mother sign the form with a witness. You must file it with the DHFS. The good thing is that you can do this right at the hospital after the baby is born. There are also no limits on signing it if you are a minor. You also do not have to be a citizen to sign this form.
It is important to you and your child that you establish legal paternity as soon as possible. Regardless of how you do it, the important thing is that you do it before there are any problems that require you to be the legal father.