Establishing Paternity to Seek Custody Rights 

Establishing Paternity to Seek Custody Rights 

For fathers in Illinois, establishing paternity is a critical first step in securing custody rights and building a strong, lasting relationship with their children.

At Manassa Law, P.C., we understand the emotional and legal challenges that fathers face when seeking to assert their parental rights.

Our experienced child custody attorney is here to guide you through the process of establishing paternity and fighting for the custody arrangement that is in your child’s best interests.

Why Establishing Paternity Matters

Establishing paternity is essential for fathers who want to play an active role in their children’s lives. Paternity establishes a legal relationship between father and child.

Without legal paternity, fathers have no legal rights or responsibilities to their children. This means they cannot seek custody or visitation, make important decisions about their child’s upbringing, or provide financial support.

When paternity is established, children gain access to critical resources, including health insurance, Social Security benefits, Veterans benefits, and inheritance rights. They can also benefit from having a strong relationship with their father. This can promote the child’s emotional, social, and psychological well-being.

Methods for Establishing Paternity in Illinois

In Illinois, there are two primary methods for establishing paternity: voluntary acknowledgment and court order.

Methods for Establishing Paternity in Illinois

Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP)

The simplest way to establish paternity is through a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) form. This form can be completed at the hospital when the child is born or at a later date at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Both parents must sign the form, acknowledging that the man is the child’s biological father.

Once the VAP form is signed and filed, the father’s name will be added to the child’s birth certificate, and he will have legal rights and responsibilities to the child.

Signing a VAP form is a serious legal matter. If either parent has doubts about the child’s paternity, they should seek genetic testing before signing the form.

Any biological parent may sign the VAP, including parents who are not legally married or in a civil union, minors without the consent of a parent or guardian, and non-U.S. citizens if the child was born in the U.S.

Court Order

If the mother disputes the father’s paternity, or if the father is unsure, paternity can be established through a court order. Either parent can file a petition with the court to establish paternity. The court will then order genetic testing to determine the child’s biological father. This is commonly referred to as a paternity test.

Genetic testing involves collecting DNA samples from the child, the alleged father, and sometimes the mother. The test results are highly accurate and can provide conclusive evidence of paternity. If the test confirms that the man is the child’s father, the court will issue an order establishing legal paternity.

Seeking Custody Rights

Once paternity has been established, fathers can seek child custody rights through the court. In Illinois, custody is determined based on the best interests of the child.

The court will consider:

  • The child’s relationship with each parent.
  • Each parent’s ability to care for the child.
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community.
  • The mental and physical health of all involved parties.
  • Any history of domestic violence or abuse.

Types of Custody in Illinois

In Illinois, child custody has historically been divided into two distinct categories: legal custody and physical custody, which can further break down into either sole custody or joint custody. Although Illinois no longer refers to these categories by these names, the concept remains the same. The differences between these terms can affect how parents establish or modify custody arrangements.

Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility of a parent to make significant decisions about their child’s upbringing. These decisions include matters related to education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities. Legal custody can be awarded to one parent (sole legal custody) or both parents (joint legal custody).

Physical Custody (Parenting Time)

Physical custody, also known as residential custody, refers to where the child lives and which parent is responsible for a majority of the child’s daily care. Unlike legal custody, parenting time is not awarded to one parent (sole physical custody). Rather, parenting time is likely awarded to both parents in some form depending on the facts and circumstances of the your case.

Sole Custody (Sole Decision Making Responsibility)

Sole custody means that one parent is granted exclusive significant decisions making responsibility. In sole legal custody arrangements, one parent has the authority to make all significant decisions about the child’s upbringing without consulting the other parent.

Joint Custody (Joint Decision Making Responsibility)

Joint Custody

Joint custody means that both parents share ld. In joint legal custody arrangements, both parents share the right to make significant decisions about the child’s upbringing together.

Legal and physical custody can combine in various ways to create a custody arrangement that suits the family’s unique needs.

In Illinois, courts prefer joint decision making arrangements that allow both parents to be actively involved in their child’s life, as long as it is in the best interests of the child. However, if one parent is unfit or if joint custody is not in the child’s best interests, the court may award sole decision making responsibility to one parent.

The ultimate goal is to create a custody arrangement that promotes the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.

Navigating the complexities of custody, as well as sole and joint custody, can be challenging.

Working with an experienced family law attorney, such as those at Manassa Law, P.C., can help ensure that your rights are protected and that your child’s best interests are served.

Developing a Parenting Plan

As part of the custody process, parents must develop a parenting plan that outlines their custody arrangement and parenting responsibilities.

The parenting plan should include:

  • A schedule for parenting time, including holidays and vacations.
  • A plan for making major decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, and religious upbringing.
  • Provisions for handling future disputes or changes to the custody arrangement.

If the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court will create one based on the child’s best interests. Work with an experienced family law attorney who can develop a parenting plan that protects your rights and meets your child’s needs.

Modifying Custody Arrangements

Custody arrangements are not set in stone. If circumstances change substantially after the initial custody order, either parent can petition the court to modify the arrangement.

To modify custody, the parent seeking the change must demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances that affects the child’s best interests.

Examples of substantial changes in circumstances may include:

  • One parent relocating.
  • Changes in the child’s needs as they grow older.
  • Concerns about the child’s safety or well-being in the current arrangement.

If the court finds that a modification is necessary, it will issue a new custody order based on the child’s best interests.

How a Family Law Attorney Can Help With Custody Arrangements

How a Family Law Attorney Can Help With Custody Arrangements

Establishing paternity and seeking custody rights can be a complex and emotionally challenging process. A skilled family law attorney can protect your rights and serve your child’s best interests.

At Manassa Law, P.C., our compassionate and experienced attorneys are dedicated to helping fathers navigate the legal system and build strong relationships with their children. We can assist with every step of the process, from filing a petition to establish paternity to representing you in custody hearings.

Our attorneys will take the time to understand your unique situation and goals and develop a personalized legal strategy to help you achieve the best possible outcome for you and your child. We will work with you to help you secure the custody arrangement that is right for your family.

Contact Manassa Law for Help Establishing Paternity for Custody

For fathers in Illinois, establishing paternity and seeking custody rights can build a strong, lasting relationship with their children.

By understanding the legal process and working with an experienced family law attorney, fathers can protect their parental rights and ensure that their children have the love, support, and stability they need to thrive.

At Manassa Law, P.C., we are committed to helping fathers navigate the complexities of family law and achieve the best possible outcomes for their families. If you are a father seeking to establish paternity or secure custody rights, we are here to help.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can assist you. Call our law firm at (847) 221-5511 or contact us online 24/7.

Larry Manassa