One of the most fundamental concepts of family law in Illinois is the concept of parental rights. Mothers generally have no problem establishing that they have given birth to the baby in question, but fathers can have far greater difficulty in proving that they are a baby's father, especially if the mother is not willing to cooperate. This means that it can be difficult for a father to secure his parental rights.
Illinois law provides several methods for proving paternity, meaning that a given child is the offspring of a given father. If the mother of the child was or is married or in a civil union not more than 300 days prior to the child's birth, the man with whom the mother was living is legally presumed to be the child's father. In many cases, however, the man may not be willing to admit the facts necessary to establish paternity, or the mother may insist that some other man is the child's father. Resolving these disputes can be difficult.
The easiest method of reaching this end is for the mother and father to both sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form and file it with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. If either parent is unwilling to take this step, a court proceeding may be required.
A court proceeding to determine paternity requires the father to submit to a DNA test. DNA tests from both the putative father and the child are submitted to a laboratory for analysis. These tests are deemed very reliable, and they generally are given controlling weight by the courts. Many people wonder why a paternity test may be required. The results of these tests can determine whether the putative father, if he is not married to the mother, will be required to pay child support and has the opportunity to seek visitation and custody. A DNA test can, of course, prove that the alleged father is not the parent of the child. In such circumstances, the father will be relieved of a child support obligation and be disallowed from seeking visitation and custody.
Anyone who has questions about the identity of the father of a child should consult an experienced family law attorney for advice on how to obtain a paternity test and how to use the results.