I’m no fan of “father’s rights” attorneys. I think that they are just marketers who prey on the fears of Dads (or in some case Moms) who are worried about losing their kids or not seeing them as much as they want.
Despite me cringing when I hear one of these Dad’s rights commercials, there is a law that really screws some fathers that needs to be changed.
In Illinois, if you sign the birth certificate to a child and don’t reverse that within 75 days of doing so, you are legally the Dad. That’s it. So if your wife sleeps with her boss and gets pregnant (as happened to a recent caller to my office), and you sign the birth certificate, you are on the hook for child support for that kid. If you get a paternity test later on that shows you aren’t the father, you are out of luck.
It could be worse. In some states, if you are married and your wife has a child you are automatically the Dad no matter what. But the law in Illinois is still awful. Unless you can prove a fraud (e.g. someone forged your name on the birth certificate) or the Mom agrees to let you off the hook, you are out of luck. In fact there almost never is a point in hiring a lawyer to go to court and fight this because it’s a lost cause.
I probably get 10 calls a week from a man whose ex-girlfriend swore that she hadn’t slept with anyone else, only to discover a year or two later that she did. So now they may be bonded with a child that isn’t theirs and are still legally required to support them. It messes up a lot of kids too.
The most awful examples are the guys who signed the birth certificate and not only discover later on that they aren’t the Dad, but find out that their ex is living with the real father. So they are paying to raise a kid whose real Dad is under the same roof and has to contribute nothing.
I’m all for the biological mom and dad having to support their child. But this stupid law needs to change. If you can prove that you aren’t the father you should be off the hook. If we find the real father, they should start the meter running if they don’t have custody. It’s the fairest thing to everyone involved.
And after we change this crazy rule, let’s get rid of the 2nd dumbest law. Let’s say you are a Mom and have to pay child support in Illinois to a Dad for one kid. If you never see your child you will be paying 20% of your net take home pay. If you have the kid 50% of the time, but aren’t ruled to be the primary custodian, you will still pay 20%. How is that fair? Parents should split medical bills, school costs, sports fees, etc. But if you are a mom whose kid sleeps at your house three days a week, presumably you are feeding him, providing a bed, clothing, driving them around and more. Shouldn’t you be able to reduce what you are paying for support a little bit? You basically get punished financially for spending time with your kid.
These laws are both unfair and both need to be addressed. Hopefully there is a legislator with the guts to make a common sense change happen.
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