A case was just decided by the Appellate Court dealing with a VAP, which is a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity. A VAP is typically signed at the hospital when the child is born, and it declares the paternity of the child.
In the recent case of In Re A.A., Matthew believed that this was his child and signed the VAP. Later, it was determined that Matthew was not the father. He was bonded to the child however, as was his older child (both children had the same mother), and he wanted to be the child’s father. It was determined that the biological father was deceased, so no other person stood to be the child’s father except Matthew.
The case came into the court system due to neglect by the children’s (4 children in all) mother and the guardian ad litem, the attorney representing the children, filed a Petition to declare the non-existence of a parent-child relationship.
Under the Parentage Act, a man is presumed to be the natural father of a child if he and the child’s mother have signed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. 750 ILCS 45/5(a)(3). Section 6(d) of the Parentage Act specifically states that “a signed acknowledgment of paternity entered under this Act may be challenged in court only on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact, with the burden of proof on the challenging party. 750 ILCS 45/6(d). Clear and convincing evidence may establish that another person is the biological father, and the Courts have held that DNA tests will demonstrate that burden.
The Court also held that before the “best interests of the child” standard can be applied to determine a parent’s rights to custody, visitation, and support, the party must first be a parent. In re A.A., 2014 IL App (5th) 140252. The clear and convincing standard underscores the importance of the biological father’s interest in his child. See In re D.T., 212 Ill.2d at 366, 818 N.E.2d at 1228.