WHAT IS A PATERNITY CASE?
No, it’s not the Maury Povich show and a blood test isn’t necessary. Paternity cases are for those couples who share a biological child together but who were never married. Both parties usually know full well who the father of the child is and may have even lived together in harmony for some period of time, but now, they’re breaking up and the father probably has no legal rights.
That is not a typo. No legal rights. “But wait! I signed the birth certificate!” Signing the birth certificate does establish a legal presumption of paternity and that’s definitely good enough for the Department of Revenue to pursue child support against an unmarried father. However, that does not establish full parental rights. Unless both parties agree, the Department of Revenue will not establish a time-sharing plan for you.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN IF A FATHER DOESN’T FILE A PATERNITY ACTION?
You have to file a petition to establish paternity to request that a Parenting Plan be established. Philosophically, the father has every bit as much right to exercise time with his child as the mother does, but until someone petitions the court for a final judgment establishing the paternity of the child, an unmarried father’s rights are inchoate, that is to say, not legally developed. There are many negative repercussions that can come about as a result of not pursuing your legal rights, including, under the right circumstances, your rights being terminated if another man comes into your former girlfriend’s life and wants to adopt the child, or the mother makes the unilateral decision to place an infant for private adoption. An unmarried father going through life without a paternity judgment is one of the biggest legal gambles you can take, and it could irreparably damage your relationship with your child. If you’re breaking up, get a court order that defines unequivocally when you can see your child.
It’s actually not a bad idea to get that paternity order BEFORE you break up, and in all our years of practice, we’ve seen exactly one very savvy father pursue that route. The parties signed an order with the mother’s consent and when they did break up, he was set!
AS A MOTHER, WHY WOULD I WANT TO FILE A PATERNITY CASE?
Is he popping up every couple of days as an excuse to see you? Calling at the last minute to see the child? Changing plans when he was supposed to get the child, leaving you in a lurch? Showing up at day care and whisking the child away without telling you? It’s not worth the hassle! Get a court order defining exactly when he is entitled to see his child. It’s for everyone’s interest. You can also establish child support at the same time, too. Follow the link here to our child support page for more information.
WHAT IF WE ARE CLOSE TO AN AGREEMENT ON TIMESHARING?
Parties often end up resolving paternity actions by consent, working together just like divorcing couples to establish a plan for the child to see both parents frequently. However, like a Category 5 hurricane turning at the last minute, where paternity actions get dicey is in the cone of uncertainty before legal action is taken. The lawyers at Sasso & Guerrero will help eliminate that cone of uncertainty. You should still prepare for tropical storm force winds.