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How is paternity recognized under Illinois state law?

Often times, the parentage of a child never comes into question in the event that the child’s parents end their marriage. There are instances, however, when one or both parties raise questions and/or concerns over legal paternity. Paternity disputes in Illinois can be complex in nature; that’s why it’s important to understand how paternity is defined and determined under state law.

Findlaw explains that determining the paternity of a child can be crucial to appropriately addressing other legal concerns such as child custody, support and/or inheritance. And while paternity technically identifies the biological link between a father and child, establishing legal paternity does not necessarily depend on DNA testing. There are a number of legal guidelines and considerations for establishing the paternity of a child that do not rely on test results. Similarly, paternity may be challenged under several conditions with and without the use of DNA.

Family law guidelines addressing paternity differ, depending on whether or not the child was born out of wedlock, in addition to other factors. In cases where paternity is questioned during the course of divorce, parentage may be determined in several ways. For instance, paternity by presumption mandates that the husband of the child’s mother automatically be identified as the child’s legal father. Even if the couple divorces prior to the birth of the child, the husband may be identified as the child’s father as long as the couple was married at the time of the baby’s conception. Paternity by presumption may also apply in cases where a “Voluntary Knowledge of Paternity” document is signed by the mother and presumed father.

Legal documentation declaring and/or denying paternity is considered paternity by consent. Parentage by consent can occur at the time of a child’s birth at the hospital, and typically involves the mother and presumed father signing the V.A.P. form. Presumed fathers who accept paternity of a child under the terms of the V.A.P. can be legally bound to comply with family law guidelines regarding everything from child custody to visitation arrangements.

The judicial determination of parentage often relies on DNA testing to either confirm or deny paternity. The circumstances under which DNA testing is used can vary greatly from case to case, but multiple parties linked to the child in question typically have the right to request such testing.

Source: Illinois General Assembly, “Illinois Compiled Statutes,” Accessed August 6, 2014

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