When a child is born out of wedlock, establishing legal paternity is consequential for the father, mother and child. The legal father may need to provide child support payments to the mother but also has the right to request some allocation of parental responsibilities. Because DNA testing is not required to establish paternity, some men discover they are not the biological father of the children they are legally responsible for. The false paternity may have been an honest mistake by both legal parents, but mothers may also mislead men into believing they are fathers. Paternity fraud can be devastating because the man:
- Has been providing monthly child support payments; and
- May have developed a paternal relationship with the child.
Men in Illinois can challenge their legal paternity based on fraud but must meet a two-year deadline and provide convincing evidence.
Courts believe it is important to name a biological father for a child because it can provide the child with financial protection and family medical records. In Illinois, legal paternity is primarily established in three ways:
- If the mother was married at the time of the child’s conception, the husband is presumed to be the father;
- Both parents can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form; or
- Either parent can take the other to court to establish paternity through a DNA test.
Paternity fraud most often occurs when a mother convinces a man to sign a VAP, even though she knows or suspects that the man is not the father. Once a man signs a VAP, he has 60 days to rescind it. Otherwise, the form legally establishes him as the father and waives his right to a DNA test or court hearing.
A court can rescind a man’s paternal status if he proves he signed the VAP under fraud or duress. After the VAP goes into effect, the legal father has two years to challenge it. Proving fraud can free the man from future child support payments and allow him to pursue restitution from the mother. However, paternity fraud must satisfy multiple conditions:
- The man must present DNA test results showing he is not the father;
- If possible, the biological father should be identified and established; and
- The man must prove the mother knew that he was not the father when he signed the VAP.
Challenging your paternity can be difficult after you have signed a VAP. A Kane County family law attorney at Van Larson Law, P.C., can discuss your options before you consent to paternity. To schedule an appointment, call 630-879-9090.