Under Illinois law, paternity is a term that refers to the biological relationship between a father and his child. This relationship also has legal implications. Paternity is used to determine matters such as child support, custody, visitation and inheritance.
When a married couple has a child, the husband is assumed to be the biological father and is granted paternity. An unmarried couple will find themselves in a different situation. If they get married after the birth of the child, then the husband will be legally presumed to be the biological father of their child. If they do not get married, they may opt to submit a form which voluntarily establishes the paternity of the father.
If none of these options are used, the mother of the child or the court may file a paternity action against the alleged biological father. This action will require the alleged father to appear in court as well as undergo DNA testing. If the results of the DNA test indicate that the man is the biological father of the child, he will be granted paternity and will then be required to abide by the court's orders regarding child support.
In addition to being held responsible for child support, the biological father will also have several new fathers' rights and responsibilities. For example, he will be allowed visitation and will be allowed to claim the child on his health insurance. The child will become eligible for inheritance from his father and will also be able to request the father's medical records.
Establishing paternity is a critical part of determining child custody, visitation and fathers' rights. An attorney may be able to help a client who wishes to establish paternity by explaining the process and offering guidance.
Source: Findlaw, "Chronology: Establishing Paternity", December 17, 2014