How Paternity Actions Work in Illinois
A significant number of child custody and child support cases in Illinois involve parents who were never married. In Illinois, the same laws that apply to children in a divorce also apply when an unmarried relationship ends. The only difference is that there is no marital property to be divided. Issues such as child custody, visitation, child support, medical insurance and which parent will claim the child as a dependent for income tax purposes will all need to be resolved either through agreement or by the court.
Establishing Paternity in Illinois
Before child support and custody issues can be resolved, paternity of the child must first be established. This can be done in one of two ways: First, one of the parents can file a Petition of Paternity with the court. Paternity will then be established by agreement of the parties, using a DNA test, or by a court hearing. The state of Illinois can also file a petition if the mother is receiving public aid benefits. Second, the father can also sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP).
Many mothers file paternity actions to obtain child support from the father. Many fathers file paternity actions because the mother has cut off contact with the children following the breakup of the relationship. In all of these circumstances, both parties need qualified legal counsel to properly protect their rights. The rights of a parent with their children are the most important rights you have.
One thing to remember, however, is that both parents have the right to have custody and visitation in Illinois. There is no "tenders years" doctrine that states that Mothers have priority over Fathers, or that Fathers cannot have small children overnight or in their custody. Both parents have the right to have their children with them equally. Just like when a child is born, there is no test for a mother or father to take the children home from the hospital, there is no requirement that either parent prove their fitness in a divorce case. The law presumes that both parents are fit parents to have custody and visitation until proven otherwise.
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