The law in Illinois strongly protects the rights of parents regarding their children. Courts encourage mothers and fathers to remain involved in their children’s lives and only terminate a person’s parental rights in the most serious and extreme cases. On the other hand, the state also recognizes the importance of establishing legal parent-child relationships, especially between children and their fathers. While this can be of particular value for a child with only one active parent, the recently enacted Illinois Parentage Act of 2015 recognizes that, in some cases, proving a biological relationship is not as important as the strong relationships that already exist in the child’s life.
Presumed and Legal Parentage
According to the statute, there are several situations in which a person would be presumed to be child’s legal parent. Most of these presumptions are based on the marital or domestic relationship between the person in question and the child’s mother. If the presumption is unrebutted, the presumed parentage is treated as legal parentage. In the absence of a presumed parent, or as a rebuttal to such a presumption, there are other options for establishing parentage or paternity. The simplest way is for both parents to complete a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. However, not all situations are clear enough for both parents to feel comfortable enough to voluntarily create the parent-child relationship, and these case may require the intervention of the court.
Powers of the Court
Once a legal proceeding to adjudicate the parentage of a child is commenced, the court has the authority to order genetic testing of any parent, presumed parent, alleged parent, or previously-adjudicated parent. The results of such testing can provide fairly conclusive evidence of a biological relationship, but there is more to being a parent than biology.
The new law now permits the court to refuse to order genetic testing, though its decision to do so must be made carefully. In practice, the possibility of refusing to issue a genetic testing order will only be likely to exist in a situation where the child already has two parents, either presumed, acknowledged, or adjudicated. The court must consider the overall nature of the family, the relationship between the alleged parent and the child, if any, the relationship between the child and the person in the role of the second parent, and how disproving an existing parent-child relationship could be detrimental to the child.
If the court finds that disproving one biological relationship and proving a separate one would not be in the child’s overall best interest, testing can be refused. By doing so, however, the court must also adjudicate the presumed parent as the child’s legal parent.
To learn more about the updated paternity and parentage laws in Illinois, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. At Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C., we know how much your children mean to you and we are prepared to help you protect your rights as a parent. Call 630-377-7770 to schedule your free initial consultation today.