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Parentage & Paternity Cases, including Custody and Child Support

Parentage Cases

It is becoming increasingly common for children to be born outside of the marriage. The Illinois Parentage Act addresses the rights and responsibilities of unmarried parents and their children. This is done by providing for recognition of a parent-child relationship as well as solving the disputes regarding support, custody, and parenting time.

Establishing Paternity

When paternity is established, the father has the right to see the child and is able to be involved in the child’s life. As a mother attempting to establish paternity for your child, it is important to note that it is best to establish paternity of a child as soon as possible. Paternity is the key component in the establishment of support payments that you may need to be able to meet the day-to-day living expenses of your child.

In order to establish, defend, or deny fatherhood, a paternity petition must be filed. This petition will be served upon the opposing party and will be filed in family court. After that, the evidence from a DNA blood test will be sought and considered.

To obtain custody and visitation rights over a child, a father must establish fatherhood. Any child born into a marriage is legally presumed to be the child of the husband. If there were any reason for you to doubt that you are the father of a child born into your marriage, then there may be significant legal challenges you must overcome in order to avoid any support obligation in the event of a divorce.

Custody and Parental Rights

In awarding custody, the court considers the following criteria:

  • the wishes of the parents
  • the wishes of the child (where appropriate)
  • the health of all individuals involved
  • the willingness of each parent to encourage a close relationship between the child and other parent.

With respect to custody, the Illinois Parentage Act has equalized the rights of unmarried fathers to those of married fathers. In the majority of cases, a parent with whom the child does not reside is entitled to visitation rights. Therefore, a man that believes he is the father of a child may seek to have his paternity established by court order in order have the ability to request custody of the child or seek visitation with his child. The frequency and duration of visitation time is determined by the best interest of the child. However, if the parents are not married, the parent seeking visitation must prove that it would be in the best interests of the child. This is because under those circumstances, there will be no presumption that a non-custodial parent should be granted liberal parenting time with his or her child.

Child Support and Parental Obligation

To determine child support in parentage cases, the court uses the same criteria that is applied to couples undergoing a divorce under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). The goal of child support is for the child to enjoy the same lifestyle as he or she would have enjoyed if the family would have remained intact. Unless there is a significant reason for deviation, there is a statutory minimum that must be awarded to the custodial parent by a court that is based on a minimum percentage of the payor’s net income. Deviation may occur if the support would not be enough to meet the needs of the child or if the support would exceed the actual demonstrated needs of the child.

If an action is brought within two years of the child’s birth, the court may order the father to pay the reasonable expenses that were incurred by the mother incident to her pregnancy and the delivery of the child. According to the IMDMA, the court can allow retroactive child support after considering factors like whether the father knew of the child’s birth and whether the mother had previously requested the father to help her in supporting the child.

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