In the state of Illinois, as well as in most states in the country, when a child is born to a couple in a civil union or a marriage, they are automatically considered Mom and Dad. In other words, both of the parents are seen under the law to have parental rights.
In cases where the mother and father are not married or in a civil union, both parents do not automatically have parental rights. The mother has parental rights until the mother and the father sign a VAP.
Filling Out the VAP
The VAP or Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity is the way for the father to indicated his legal relationship to the child. This also establishes the father’s rights, which may be very important in the next few months and years.
The hospital typically provides the VAP, which is a simple form. The parents fill out the required names, dates, and places of birth of the parents, the name, place, and date of birth for the child, and any information on if the mother was in a marriage or civil union with someone other than the male listed on the VAP as the father.
It is essential that both parents sign the VAP. Failing to sign by one parent invalidates the form.
It is possible to fill out the VAP at a later time. However, this can become more complicated as time goes on, especially if the couple is in conflict or no longer in contact.
Why it Matters
Sometimes, unmarried couples do not see the need to complete the VAP. Unfortunately, this can cause legal issues in the future when it comes to child support if the couple no longer stays together, which is an issue for the mother and the child in most cases.
If the father has not established paternity of the child, even if he as been involved in the child’s life, he cannot exert his parental rights. This means he may not be able to get parenting time with the child through a court, and he may not have any input into medical, religious, or educational care of the child.
Without the VAP, the mother can also move with the child, including moving outside of the USA. With a VAP, the father can take legal action to prevent the child from moving or from being adopted by a new partner or a third party.