A child born in Illinois to a married couple has two legal parents. However, if the parents are not married, or if the mother was not in a civil union within 300 days of the child’s birth, she is the only legal parent. If you are an unwed father who wishes active involvement with their child, there are ways to step forward and recognize your child legally, even without the mother’s approval. 

According to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, paternity is the legal relationship between a father and a child. There are several benefits a child can reap from having a legally recognized relationship with their biological father, such as the following: 

  • Eligibility for veteran’s benefits, when appropriate 
  • Access to health insurance and social security benefits 
  • Inheriting from the father’s estate 

Young people benefit emotionally and financially when they have a child-parent relationship with both parents. By adding your name to the birth certificate, your offspring has access to your family’s medical history. 

Once established as the child’s father, you can petition for visitation and custody, with the same rights as any dad. If you and the mom agree on recognizing your paternity legally, you can both complete, sign and submit the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity by Parents form to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. 

Alternatively, you may file a paternity action with the court if the mother disagrees. A DNA test compares the biology of a mother, father and child for conclusive determination. A swab from the inside of your cheek can obtain the necessary sample. 

The court addresses custody and visitation issues. A parenting plan that includes transportation, accommodations and other specific details is necessary if you wish to spend time with your child.