If you are not married to the mother of your child in Illinois, and haven’t admitted paternity either through a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or in court, then you need to become familiar with the law and how it pertains to your rights to your child. You may be surprised to learn that what you assume about your rights is probably not accurate. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services explains that if you are not married, then you have no legal rights as a father to your child when he or she is born. The child obviously comes from the mother but, with a DNA test or the presumption of legitimacy through marriage, there is no known father.

This can be very difficult and create a terrible situation for you if you and the mother are not together or later separate. It is often misunderstood that if you put your name on the birth certificate, then it establishes your rights, but that is not true. In fact, you cannot put your name on the birth certificate even if you have not established paternity.

There is an easy way to establish paternity if you and the mother are in a relationship and both agree the child is yours. You can both sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. The other options usually require a DNA test. This may be done by Child Support Services or through the court. The VAP is the quickest way and ensures you get your name on the birth certificate from the very beginning. You can complete this form at the hospital and the staff will ensure it is filed for you.

Without establishing paternity, you have no legal rights to your child. Should something happen between you and the mother, you may be unable to get visitation or have any contact with your child if you do not establish paternity. This information is for education only and is not legal advice.