As men in Illinois take on an increasingly active role in the lives of their children, their rights as birth fathers are changing. These rights are being reviewed, tested and have even made national headlines on more than one occasion. In December of 2014, one Utah father filed a lawsuit for $130 million claiming that his son was given up for adoption without his consent. He claimed that his intention of signing up with Utah’s putative father registry was met with hostility and threats from the baby’s mother. The fact that he did not register, thus claiming paternity, meant that the mother was able to set up and follow through with placing the baby for adoption.

Legal father status

In Illinois, a man is considered the legal father of a child if one of the following is true:

  • Marriage during – The child was conceived and/or born while the couple was married.
  • Marriage after – The father’s name is listed on the birth certificate of the child and he married the child’s mother after the birth.
  • Court order – A court order exists as proof of paternity.
  • Voluntary acknowledgement – Both parents have signed a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage or Paternity” form.

Only one of these must be correct in order to establish fathers’ rights. There are, however, instances where a father is interested in claiming paternity, but does not meet any of the aforementioned criteria.

Establishing parental legal rights 

Fathers who have not established their paternity in a legal proceeding, yet believe that they are the father of a child, can register with the Illinois Putative Father Registry. By doing this, either before the child is born, or within 30 days of the birth, the fathers can ensure that they will be notified if the child is placed for third-party adoption. After a father registers, he must begin the legal process of establishing paternity within 30 days.

Rights and responsibilities 

Once a birth father has established legal paternity, he gains both responsibilities and rights.The court, upon establishing paternity, may order the father to pay child support retroactively for the time that has passed since the child was born. The court may even order the father to pay birth and hospital expenses. Child custody rights are gained once paternity is established by a court. This does not mean that the birth father will receive automatic custody of a child. Instead it means that he has a legal right to see and visit with his child. Meeting with a family law attorney may help birth fathers to understand their rights in relation to newly established paternity.