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The issue of child support can be emotionally charged, even in the best of circumstances. This is true whether the child’s parents are undergoing a divorce, or whether the parents were never married. Oftentimes, the first step a court takes in making a child support determination is establishing paternity. However, a bill recently passed by an Illinois Senate committee may change the way child support is handled for a father who is not the biological parent.

The bill came into being after a father, who had been paying child support for 13 years, learned after taking a DNA test that he was not the child’s biological father. The father initially declined to take a DNA test back in 2001. However, he did take a DNA test after meeting the child for the first time in 2011. His attempts to petition the courts to release him from his child support obligations failed, in part due to a two year statute of limitations. The bill, which the committee passed unanimously, would allow the man to stop paying child support so long as he agrees to take another court-ordered DNA test. The bill now awaits further action on the Senate floor.

As this case demonstrates, establishing paternity is an important issue in determining any child support award. It is usually presumed that if the child is born to a married couple, then the husband is the child’s biological father. In addition, a man may voluntarily sign a legal acknowledgement of paternity if he feels certain he is the child’s father. However, in other circumstances courts may turn to a DNA test to determine whether a man is the child’s biological parent. After establishing paternity, the courts may then call upon the father to make child support payments. In addition, the father may also have custody or visitation rights with his biological child.

Child support can be essential for a child’s well being. However, it is important for all involved that the person paying the child support is indeed the child’s father.

Source: The News-Gazette, “Senate panel clears child-support bill,” Tom Kacich, March 20, 2013