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Understanding Paternity Fraud in Illinois

Understanding Paternity Fraud in Illinois

Paternity fraud occurs when a mother leads a man to believe that he is her child’s biological father, despite the mother’s knowledge that the father isn’t the biological father or her uncertainty about who the real father is. Illinois is one of just a few states in the U.S. to consider paternity fraud┬áto be a civil cause of action.

The Elements of a Cause of Action for Illinois Paternity Fraud

Courts in Illinois recognize paternity fraud causes of action based on the same elements attributed to any other kind of common law fraud:

  • False statements of material fact
  • The knowledge that these statements were false
  • Intent to incite action on the part of the plaintiff
  • Reliance on the statement by the plaintiff
  • Damages resulting from the plaintiff’s dependence on false statements

The fraudulent act is either an actual false statement or the intentional withholding of the truth with the desire to conceal the truth.

A mother commits paternity fraud if she makes a false statement or fails to state the truth regarding a man’s status as a biological father, leading him to believe that he is the biological father when she either knows that he isn’t the father or has reason to believe he may not be the biological father.

Types of Recoverable Damages for Illinois Paternity Fraud

If an individual files a claim for paternity fraud, there are several damages that are recoverable under the same principles as common law fraud. These damages will help compensate for any loss suffered due to the defendant’s fraudulent statements and acts.

Plaintiffs in paternity fraud cases can typically recover any child support they paid to the mother. Although other damages the person suffered as a result of the fraud are also theoretically recoverable, but in most cases, child support will be the only damages that the court grants. Court costs and attorney fees are not recoverable damages in paternity fraud cases.

Failing to file a petition to challenge paternity in Illinois within two years of the date a person finds out he is not the father can result in dismissal of the case. Likewise, if a man files a petition to challenge paternity without first obtaining a DNA test, his case will likely be dismissed as well. 

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