The Presumption of Paternity
While most people understand the importance of establishing paternity for unmarried parents, little thought is often given to the paternity of children born to a married couple. In a large majority of family situations, paternity will never be an issued for married parents, but there are some cases in which the presumptions made by law can actually complicate matters. If you find yourself in such a situation, a qualified family law attorney can help.
Your Wife’s Child
The law in Illinois contains provisions that legally recognize the parent-child relationship between a married couple and their child. The relationship between the child and mother is clearly obvious, while the relationship between child and father can only be presumed. You are presumed to be the child’s legal father if:
- You and the mother were married at the time of the child’s birth or conception; or
- You and the mother were subsequently married after the child’s birth, and your name appears, with your consent, on the child’s birth certificate.
For most married parents, these presumptions are completely reasonable and serve the needs of the family perfectly.
What if, however, you believe that a child conceived or born while you were married is not actually yours? Beyond the relationship challenges that such a situation will almost certainly create, you should be prepared for legal difficulties as well, because, in the eyes of the law, you are that child’s father until it is proven otherwise.
Disputes over paternity in a marriage, although relatively uncommon, may arise in several ways. The first scenario involves suspected (or admitted) infidelity on the part of your wife. Alternatively, your wife may also have gotten pregnant while you were separated and preparing for a divorce. However, since you are still legally married until the divorce decree is issued, you are presumed to be that child’s father.
Although often very difficult, the law in Illinois acknowledges that its presumptions may be biologically incorrect and “may be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence.” In most cases, the appropriate first step is to sign a denial of paternity when the child is born. However, you may need to proceed to legal action if the actual father refuses to acknowledge paternity, as it is possible that you will continue to be recognized as the legal father until the biological father voluntarily acknowledges paternity or an order is entered by the court.
Family law matters can be extremely sensitive and personal, particularly those related to paternity. If you suspect that your wife’s child is not yours, contact an experienced Orland Park family law attorney. Our compassionate team will help you understand your options and work with you in taking the necessary steps to protect your rights. Call 708-518-8200 to schedule your free consultation today.