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How can I establish paternity of my child?

If you are an Illinois father who was not married to or in a civil union with your child’s mother at the time of birth, you will be distressed to know that you are not your child’s legal father. The only way to remedy this situation is to establish paternity.

As the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services explains, you can establish paternity in one of the three following ways: 

  1. By signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity and filing it with the IDHFS
  2. By obtaining an Administrative Paternity Order from the IDHFS’ Child Support Services Division
  3. By obtaining an Order of Paternity from a court

Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity

A VAP is a legal document that Illinois uses to establish paternity. It is the easiest way for you and your child’s mother to do this. If your child has not yet been born, you can obtain a VAP at the hospital when he or she is delivered. If your child already has been born, you can obtain a VAP at any of the following places:

  • The HFS/DCSS website
  • Your local Child Support Office
  • A Department of Human Services office
  • Your County Clerk’s office
  • Your state or local Registrar’s office

You and your child’s mother can fill out and file a VAP anytime after your child is born. All you need to do is fill it out, date and sign it, have it witnessed by someone 18 years old or older, and mail it to the HFS-Administrative Coordination Unit for them to verify and file. Once they do, your name will be listed as the legal father on your child’s birth certificate

Other methods

If you and your child’s mother do not agree that you are the father, you will need to undergo a paternity test in order to establish your paternity. This is a DNA test that Child Support Services can assist you in obtaining once you fill out the necessary forms. If the test confirms that you are the father, Child Support Services will then issue an Administrative Paternity Order.

Your other option is to go to court and obtain an Order of Paternity from a judge. While this information should not be taken as legal advice, it can help you understand the paternity process and what to expect.

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