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Why Establishing Paternity is Essential for Fathers’ Rights

Why Establishing Paternity is Essential for Fathers’ Rights

By: M. Scott Gordon

Fathers’ rights issues are wide-ranging, covering matters of parental responsibilities, parenting time, child support and modifications of parenting plans and allocation judgments. With regard to fathers’ rights when we talk about parental responsibilities and parenting time, we often think about a parent’s rights and responsibilities during and after a divorce. Fathers’ rights issues also regularly impact unmarried parents. For fathers who never have been married to the child’s mother, the process of allocating parental responsibilities can be more complex. In some cases, paternity has not yet been established. We want to say more about why establishing paternity is essential for upholding fathers’ rights in Chicago family law cases involving allocation judgments and modifications.

Understanding Illinois Law Definitions of the “Father”

Under the Illinois Parentage Act of 2015 (750 ILCS 46/), there are many different definitions concerning fatherhood. Clarifying these are important to explain why it is essential to establish paternity when seeking parental responsibilities. The following are some of the different ways the Act defines the father:

  • Acknowledged father: is a man who has established a father-child relationship under Article 3 of the Act, which concerns voluntary acknowledgement of fatherhood or paternity;
  • Adjudicated father: is a man who has been adjudicated by a court to be the father of the child; and
  • Alleged father: is a man who alleges he is the biological father of the child, but paternity has not yet been established (an alleged father is not an acknowledged father and is not a man who has had his parental rights terminated)

Eligibility for Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time

In order to be eligible for parental responsibilities and parenting time, a man must be defined under the law as a father of the child. In the above definitions, both an acknowledged father and an adjudicated father can be eligible for parental responsibilities and parenting time, but an alleged father must take steps to establish a parent-child relationship.

The Act specifically states a parent-child relationship is a term that refers to the “legal relationship between a child and a parent of the child.” The process of determining parentage, or establishing paternity, is necessary to establish a parent-child relationship, which gives the alleged parent legal rights.

Many unmarried fathers assume they will have rights when it comes to parenting, even if they never formally acknowledged fatherhood or paternity under Article 3 of the Illinois Parentage Act, or never underwent genetic testing to be adjudicated as a father of the child. In such scenarios, many fathers realize, in fact, they do not have legal rights to the child and instead fall into the classification of an “alleged father” in the definitions above. In such a situation, it is essential to establish paternity. Even if a father has paid child support in the past, that fact alone does not firmly establish parentage.

Taking Steps to Establish Paternity

In order to make clear an alleged father has a legal right to parental responsibilities and parenting time, it is often necessary for that man to undergo genetic testing in order to prove he is the biological father of the child. In other circumstances, it may be possible to prove the alleged father established a parent-child relationship through other means, such as by spending time with the child and paying child support over a period of time. An experienced lawyer can help with your case to establish paternity.

Contact a Chicago Fathers’ Rights Attorney

If you have concerns about parental responsibilities and parenting time due to questions about paternity or parentage, you should discuss those concerns with a Chicago fathers’ rights lawyer as soon as possible. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates to speak with an advocate today.