What If I Have A Child But Am Not Married?
If a couple has a child outside of a marriage, it is important to establish the legal relationship of both parents to the child either through a paternity test or through a parental acknowledgment form. Although a father may be named on a birth certificate, if he is not married to the mother, he will need to establish his rights as a father through a court action. It is very important to have paternity legally established through testing or by signing papers stating he knows he is the father, so the rights of both parents are recognized.
How Does A Paternity Case Work?
The paternity process involves at least one hearing, where the parents, or sometimes just the alleged father, appear and inform the court about the status of the child’s paternity. If a father wants a paternity test to confirm he is the father, the paternity test is ordered at this hearing. The alleged father can also simply admit he is the father without a test by signing a paternity acknowledgment form.
Once a father is judicially established, then the court must address other issues, such as legal custody of the child and what placement with each parent is best for the child. The court will also address financial issues like child support, who will provide health insurance for the child and how the child’s other expense will be paid. This process is the same as when parties to a divorce need to establish placement and support.
Some counties have procedures that make establishing paternity and doing tests a bit easier. Those counties have parents meet with someone from the Child Support Agency to talk about child custody and placement of the child, as well as all the financial issues involved. If the parents agree on all the issues, sometimes the agency worker can draft that agreement and submit it to the court for approval.
If a mother or child is receiving public benefits (W-2, Food Share, Medial Assistance, Badger Care, etc.), the Child Support Agency in the county where the mother lives will require that a paternity case and paternity test be filed. This is done to make sure that both parents are financially supporting the child.
If the parents cannot reach a complete agreement about all the issues relating to the child, the process to resolve these issues is the same as it is in a divorce with children. There is mediation, a Guardian ad Litem when needed and sometimes a custody study. There may also be a contested hearing (trial) where the judge decides all the disputed issues.
It is almost always best for parents to reach their own agreements regarding their own children but at the Nevitt Law Office, we recognize that this does not always happen. We will help you navigate the process and do everything possible to get the results our clients need. Call for a consultation, so we can discuss your situation.