The Paternity Act is an area of law that sets forth procedures and statute regarding children born outside of wedlock. As a general rule, when a child is born to a married mother, the mother’s husband is legally presumed the father of the child. However, when the mother is unmarried, even if she and the child’s father are in a committed relationship and/or cohabitating, there are specific laws to follow to establish who the child’s father is, and what rights that father has as the child’s natural parent.
Paternity may be established in a number of ways. If the parents agree jointly they can execute the proper forms under the Acknowledgement of Paternity Act. Alternatively, the parents may acknowledge paternity once a court action to establish paternity has been filed, and/or the court may order a DNA test to confirm paternity. An action to establish paternity (filing a case in court) can be initiated by the Mother, Father, or the county Department of Human Services (represented by the local prosecutor’s office). An action can be brought at any time during the mother’s pregnancy until the Child is 18 years old.
Once the father is legally established it gives rise to custody, parenting time, and child support questions. Parents, even if not married, may reach agreements on child related issues, but if a dispute arises, the court will consider what is in the child’s best interests with respect to legal child custody, physical child custody, parenting time (visitation), and/or child support.
Starting a family and having a child is a very exciting and sometimes scary time in one’s life. All the more so if the mother and father cannot reach agreements or have concerns about child custody, parenting time (visitation), and child support issues. Being a new parent is in and of itself a complex and busy time of life. If you are experiencing some concerns about establishing paternity, child custody, parenting time, or child support, at Schmeltzer & Bostic, we can assist you with navigating the complex bodies of law at play when a child is born out of wedlock to help you to establish a good co-parenting relationship, child custody / parenting time, and child support necessary for your growing family. Or, if paternity, child custody, parenting time, and child support, was established several years ago, but you are experiencing some changes, and need to consider modifying the current child custody or child support situation, at Schmeltzer & Bostic, we can help you to understand court proceedings to do so, the applicable law, and discuss with you the facts of your situation to help you achieve your legal objectives and goals for you and your family’s future.