If someone approaches you and demands child support, the most important step is to ensure that the child is indeed yours so as to establish your legal responsibility. Paternity, when put as such, is a legal relationship between father and child, not necessarily emotionally (but in no way mutually exclusive). In Illinois, if the parents of a child were not married at the time of the child’s birth, until the child’s birth certificate is legally established—even if the father was there at the time of the child’s birth—the man is considered the legal “alleged” father until the birth certificate is signed. Conversely, if the man refused to sign the birth certificate, there are two other ways that he can be legally considered the legal paternal caretaker: One is if the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family enters an administrative paternity order; the other is if a judge does so in court.
There are many reasons why a mother would want to establish paternity for her child, and the emotional reasons are not, by and large, the most significant. Establishing a paternity order protects both parents’ rights in the case of emergency, and allows both parents to access family medical information. This can be especially important in the tragic event that the child experiences a genetic medical condition that needs to be considered through the lens of family history, for example. For the child, it is extremely important that paternity is established so that the child has access to financial family benefits such as medical support, Social Security, and veteran’s benefits that are coming from the father’s side.
Securing a paternity test does not have to be by force—Illinois Child Support Services will first conduct an interview with both parents to obtain the necessary, related forms. If the father does not acknowledge paternity during this interview, he may be required by law to submit to genetic testing. If the father has been served and fails to show up in court, the judge may declare him the legal father regardless, making him accountable for child support payments which are legally binding and subject to punishment and fines they are not dutifully made.