The first step in establishing child support, obtaining an allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time is establishing paternity of the child. In cases where the parties are married at the time of the child’s birth or in cases where the father has signed a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, there is a legal presumption that he is the father. If the parties were not married or the father has not signed a voluntary acknowledgement, either party has the right to request a DNA test if the parties do not agree to the entry of a court order establishing paternity.
Although a man who is married to the mother of a child who is born during the marriage is presumed to be the father, he can sign a Denial of Paternity form at the hospital if he is fairly certain the child is not his. He can also challenge the presumption in court by requesting a DNA test, filing a petition, and seeking a court order declaring that he is not the child’s father. If there is no court order or Denial of Paternity, the husband’s name will be included on the birth certificate as the father.
Conversely, a man who is not married to the mother of a child, but believes that he is the child’s biological father, can sign a Voluntarily Acknowledgment of Paternity at the hospital. His name would then be included on the birth certificate as the child’s father.
A paternity test is a genetic test done at a lab which compares the DNA of a child to the DNA of the alleged father to determine whether or not the man is the biological father of a child. Most of the time, the DNA is obtained by swabbing saliva from the cheek. Typically, it is not necessary to take the DNA of the mother. In Illinois, if the results show that the father is at least 1,000 times more likely to be the father than another person and there is a 99.9% probability of paternity, then the man is presumed to be the father legally. If the test results fall short of that legal threshold, the man will not be considered the biological father in the eyes of the court.
Inexpensive paternity tests are often sold over the counter. Unfortunately, most of those tests come with a disclaimer that the results are not admissible in court. There are many reputable laboratories that will provide DNA tests with results which are admissible in court. Typically, these cost several hundred dollars. There should be no problem locating a reputable one in your area. If the parties are unable to agree on the laboratory to be utilized, the court may choose one or utilize a government facility. The cost of the test is generally borne by the party requesting the testing. However, some courts will order the parties to divide the cost. In the event the test results are negative, the court may require the mother to reimburse the alleged father for the cost.
If a DNA test shows that an alleged father is legally considered to be the father, it is extremely difficult to convince the court that the test results are wrong. In order to effectively challenge the test results, the alleged father must prove that he was sterile or infertile, the lab results were subject to tampering, or that there was errors in the lab work. If a successful challenge to the DNA test results is not filed, an administrative order or court order will likely be entered declaring the man to be the natural and legal father of the child.
If a party has been presumed, acknowledged, or adjudicated the parent of a child in a paternity action, a court may deny the request of a parent, presumed parent, acknowledged parent, adjudicated parent, or alleged parent to obtain an order for genetic testing, if the court determines that:
- the conduct of said parent is such that the parent is no longer able to claim he or she is not a parent of the child;
- it would be inequitable to disprove the parent-child relationship; and
- it is in the child’s best interests to deny genetic testing taking into account numerous factors, including the length of time the person has been acting as parent, the age of the child, the harm that might result to the child, among other things.
Once a person has been legally determined to be the father of a child, he may request that the court add their name to the birth certificate. He may also ask that the child’s last name be changed. The father has the right to seek an allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time with the child, and he could have an obligation to pay child support to the mother. Because of the serious consequences of a paternity finding, if you are unsure as to the father of your child or whether you are the father of a child, you should contact the attorneys at Kollias & Giese, P.C. to discuss your rights and responsibilities.