How to Initiate the Paternity Process

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How to Initiate the Paternity Process

Signing a child’s birth certificate is a symbolic step toward paternity acknowledgement, but it is only symbolic. A Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity is the first official step in this process. However, a VAP only establishes an administrative parent-child relationship, mostly for child support purposes.

To establish a full legal parent-child relationship, a Rolling Meadows family law attorney must file a petition in court. This petition is the only way to guarantee that fathers have full legal rights with regard to their children. Legal action has emotional benefits as well, especially for children. A VAP and other non-court paperwork can establish a semi-formal relationship. But only a paternity petition helps establish an emotional bond.

Benefits of Paternity

Regardless of what the paperwork says, most fathers make financial sacrifices to support their children. Unfortunately, unless official paperwork is on file, these payments are completely unverifiable. The mother can easily claim she did not receive the money, especially if the father paid in cash or shared expenses with the mother.

Usually, once court supervision begins, fathers may make payments through internet portals and other approved channels. These records are proof positive of payment. It is almost impossible for anyone to successfully challenge these payment records.

These same channels are usually available for other court-ordered support payments, like medical bill reimbursement. 

Perhaps more importantly, a legal paternity action sets up a timesharing schedule. Fathers have exclusive control of their children during designated periods. Additionally, the mother must usually keep the father informed about important milestones in the child’s life, like football games or school plays. And, the father has a right to attend these events, at least in most cases.

There are some big picture custody benefits as well. Typically, legal fathers have the inside track in terms of full custody decisions. Non-legal biological parents usually only have an outside shot, at best. Moreover, unless there is a legal parent-child relationship, most mothers may unilaterally make life-changing decisions, such as moving to another state or even putting the child up for adoption.

What Happens Next

Signing and filing a VAP starts the legal paternity process. The rest of the process is usually rather straightforward.

In the unlikely event that the mother contests paternity, a non-invasive DNA swab test is almost absolutely conclusive in these situations.

As for the other provisions of a paternity order, both parties agree on custody, financial support, and other provisions. Frequently, court orders do not change anything. They simply formalize the existing relationship and add the aforementioned legal rights. If the parties cannot agree on all provisions, mediation is usually a good idea. A third-party mediator, who is usually an independent Rolling Hills family law attorney, meets with both sides and helps them come together on contested issues, so they can avoid a costly and risky trial.

Contact an Energetic Cook County Attorney

Signing an acknowledgment is the first step toward legal paternity. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Rolling Meadows, contact Andrea Heckman Law, Ltd. Convenient payment plans are available.

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