My Ex and I were never married and we have a child together – what are his/her rights?

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Parties that were never married who share a child in common are often surprised to discover that they can file a paternity action against the other parent.  They can file for custody, visitation, and child support from their child’s other parent, among other relief.  It is important that the child’s father is adjudicated to be the legal father of the minor child prior to anything else being awarded to the child.

When a baby is born in the hospital to an unwed parent, if the alleged father is present, they are offered an opportunity to file a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (or a “VAP” as they are sometimes called) acknowledging that they are the father of the child and waiving their right to a DNA test.  There are some exceptions in Illinois as to waiving away rights to a DNA test, but generally, the VAP governs paternity.

In the event that no VAP was ever signed, the first thing the parties must do is obtain a court order that the other party is the father of the child.  This can be done by filing a petition requesting adjudication of parentage.  Next, once the other party is served, and a court date has been set, the Court will generally offer the opportunity for the responding party to obtain a DNA test, if they wish for one.  They can waive the DNA test if they wish to and an order adjudicating the responding party as the father of the child can be entered immediately, or, a DNA test can be administered and once the results are in that will determine whether or not an order is entered that the responding party is the father.

Once the order of parentage is entered, the parties can request custody, visitation, child support and other contributions for the benefit of the minor child.

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