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Paternity: What to do if you aren't sure you're the father

A baby is a blessing that most couples look forward to. Sometimes, however, there are questions about a child's paternity -- especially when the parents aren't married.

If your girlfriend gives birth and you aren't sure if you're the baby's father, what should you do?

Should you sign the official acknowledgment?

One of the easiest ways for an unmarried father to establish paternity of a child is to sign the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) at the hospital. This is a legal and binding document that is then filed with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS).

If there's any doubt on your part or the mother's about your paternity, don't sign the VAP. Instead, you should ask for a DNA test. These days, DNA tests are painless procedures that involve little more than taking a swab to the inside of your cheek and the baby's cheek to collect biological samples that can be compared. If your genetic data matches, you can then complete the VAP with confidence.

What if you have doubts after you sign?

If you find out that there's doubt about your paternity after you sign the VAP, you can rescind your acknowledgment by filing a Rescission of Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity with HFS. You only have 60 days, however, from the time you filed the VAP to do so. Otherwise, it won't help you.

Establishing the correct paternity for the child is important, whenever possible. Paternity entitles the child to child support, health benefits, inheritance rights and possible Social Security benefits if the biological parent is disabled or deceased.

What if you have additional questions?

You may have a number of additional concerns that aren't addressed above. What if you know you aren't the baby's biological father. but you intend to raise the child as your own? What if you signed the VAP a few months ago and just now found out you aren't the father?

Whatever your paternity concerns, we offer experienced advice and guidance. Please contact our office or explore our site further.

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