Understanding Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity in Illinois After the Death of a Parent

VAP after death

The loss of a parent is an emotional event, and the situation can become even more complicated if there is a need to establish paternity after the parent has passed away. In Illinois, specific legal steps must be followed to acknowledge paternity posthumously, and understanding these can help ease the process for grieving families. Understanding the legalities can help families prepare for this challenging situation.

What is Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity?

Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) is a legal form that, when signed by both the mother and the father, establishes the legal fatherhood of a child. This document is typically signed at the hospital right after the birth of a child, but it can also be completed later. However, the process becomes more complicated if the alleged father is deceased.

Establishing Paternity After the Death of a Father in Illinois

In Illinois, if the father dies before his paternity has been legally established, there are specific legal pathways that need to be followed to determine paternity posthumously. The primary methods include:
  1. Genetic Testing: Genetic testing can be used to establish paternity after the father’s death. Illinois law allows courts to order genetic testing of the deceased father’s parents (the paternal grandparents), siblings, or other relatives if testing the father directly isn’t possible.
  2. Legal Presumptions of Paternity: In some cases, paternity can be presumed under Illinois law. For instance, legal paternity is presumed if the father was married to the mother at either conception or birth or if paternity was established prior to his death through a signed Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity.
  3. Estate and Inheritance Claims: If the paternity issue arises in the context of estate or inheritance claims, Illinois courts will generally require clear and convincing evidence that the deceased was the father, including testimony from family members, written acknowledgments by the deceased, or DNA evidence.


When the Mother Passes Away Without a Signed Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity

In Illinois, if a father has not signed a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) and the biological mother passes away, he is not automatically recognized as the legal father. In such cases, the father must seek legal action to establish paternity quickly. Without legal paternity, the mother’s family may have greater rights to custody of the child. Furthermore, there is a risk that the child could be considered a ward of the state until the father’s paternity is legally established. This makes it imperative for the father to act promptly to affirm his parental rights.
The Process and Challenges
To begin the process of establishing paternity after the death of an alleged father in Illinois, it’s advisable to consult with a family law attorney who can guide you through the intricate legal landscape. Here are some steps and challenges you might encounter:
  • Filing a Petition: You must file a petition in the county court where the child resides, seeking an order of paternity.
  • Gathering Evidence: Collecting DNA samples from the deceased’s relatives can be challenging and requires consent. The court may need to intervene if relatives are unwilling to cooperate.
  • Dealing with the Estate: If the paternity claim affects matters of inheritance, the process may intersect with probate proceedings, complicating the situation.


Why Establish Paternity?

Establishing paternity is an important step that offers several significant benefits for a child. It legally identifies and confirms the biological father, which can have profound implications for the child’s rights, health, and emotional well-being. Here are some key reasons why establishing paternity is important:
  • Legal Rights and Benefits: The child may gain rights to inheritance, social security benefits, veterans’ benefits, and life insurance payouts.
  • Health History: Knowing the biological father’s medical history can be crucial for the child’s health care planning.
  • Emotional Closure: Establishing a biological link can provide emotional closure to a child after the loss of a parent.  Further, the establishment of paternity may be useful for further legal proceedings such as a future related adoption. 
Navigating the establishment of paternity after a father’s death is a complex process that involves sensitive emotional and legal challenges. However, understanding your rights and the legal avenues available in Illinois can make this daunting task more manageable. Remember, you’re not alone in this process; legal professionals and community support groups can offer invaluable help and guidance.

We’re Here to Help

If you have questions or if you are looking for a free, no-obligation consultation, you may complete the form below or call us at 815-600-8950. 


This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

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