The birth of a child is often a joyous experience for Illinois parents. They may spend time talking about the future and imagining the life their child will lead upon reaching adulthood. They think about making memories together and worry about their child’s safety. Unmarried couples need to add one more concern to the list — establishing paternity for the father.

As is the case in other states, Illinois typically does not immediately recognize the parentage of an unwed, biological father. This means that the mother may be the only one with legal rights to the child. Establishing paternity rectifies this problem. The legal father then has the right to pursue custody and/or visitation rights if the relationship between the parents fails to last and the mother can pursue child support if she retains primary custody.

The child receives numerous benefits as well. Other than knowing who his or her father is, the child receives the right to benefit from the father financially, and this does not only include child support. A legal parent relationship gives the child the right to inherit from his or her father and to receive any death benefits he or she may be entitled to in the event the father passes away. Establishing a legal parental relationship also gives the child access to the father’s medical history.

Some Illinois fathers do not realize they have no legal parental rights until the relationship with the mother ends, or something happens to the child and the parents discover the father has no rights to the child. In order to avoid these eventualities, establishing paternity needs to be a priority. The process itself may not be terribly complex, but if any dispute arises between the biological parents, it can become that way rather quickly. Considering the stakes, even when the parents do get along, it would be wise to consult with a family law attorney to help make sure everything is done right the first time.