Parentage (Paternity) in Illinois

In today’s society, many children are born to couples outside of wedlock under varied circumstances; however, these children’s needs are not addressed in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act due to the parents’ unwed status. As a result, the Illinois legislature responded with the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984 (750 ILCS 45). Illinois wanted to recognize and protect the rights of every child to the physical, mental, emotional and monetary support of his or her parents under this act. This act explicitly states that the rights, privileges, duties, and obligations of being a parent are independent of the marital status of the parents.

In most instances that we will come across in our practice, it is really an issue of paternity. Paternity is the relationship between a father and his child and establishing paternity is the process of making this a legal relationship. However, the client on a paternity case could be the mother, the expectant mother, the man presumed or alleging himself to be the father, the child, or any person or public agency that has custody of, or is providing financial support for the child. Besides determining who the biological parent of the child is, many of these cases involve other issues like custody, visitation, and child support.

1. Why is establishing Paternity important?

Paternity can provide benefits to the parents as well as the child, and it is a good way to get the relationship with the child off to a good start. Establishing paternity is the critical first step in collecting child support. When legal paternity is established, a child has the right to the father’s Social Security or veteran’s benefits, medical coverage, pensions and inheritance. Also, the medical genetic information of both parents is available for the child if needed for diagnosis and treatment of medical problems.

2. How is the Parent and Child relationship established for mothers?

The parent child relationship is established by the natural mother by proof of her having given birth to the child. The mother can also establish this relationship through any other means under the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984. In very rare cases, the identity of the mother may be in question. This usually happens when the mother is deceased and a dispute arises over the inheritance of the estate. Illinois Parentage Act of 1984 offers a way for affected parties to conclusively determine whether a particular child is, in fact, the biological offspring of a mother.