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Paternity establishes visitation rights and other benefits

Fathers in Illinois who are not married to their child's mother may wonder whether they will be allowed visitation rights, or even custody. According to FindLaw, the courts approach custody issues assuming that it is in a child's best interests to be able to spend quality time with each parent, with few exceptions. As long as a father has established paternity, the child's mother is unlikely to be able to prevent him from spending time with his child.

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services explains that paternity is not just a biological connection; the relationship is a legal one. Even if a father knows he is a biological parent, if he was not married to the mother at the time of birth or within 300 days before it, he is not legally a parent. 

If the father is present at the birth, resolving the issue is simple. He and the mother sign the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity at the hospital. They can also complete the form and file it with the HFS. The form is available at the hospital, at the local child support offices, or at the DHS, County Clerk's or Registrar's offices. It is also available on the HFS website.

Once paternity is established, the child receives many benefits. First and foremost, the parent-child bond can be established through visitation or custody. The father will also provide a portion of the child's financial support, and the child will be able to receive health insurance and life insurance benefits from his or her father. If applicable, the child is also eligible to receive Veterans and Social Security benefits. If the father dies, the child is considered a beneficiary of the estate.

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