Common concerns for unmarried parents are custody, parenting time, and child support. If parents are not married, how do they go about establishing custody, parenting time, and child support? These issues are often complicated. But when parents are unmarried, establishing custody, parenting time, and child support can be even more problematic.
The first thing to know is that when a child is born out of wedlock, sole legal custody and sole physical custody is automatically awarded to the mother. This means the mother has complete authority to make all decisions regarding the child to include where the child will live, where the child will go to school, health care decisions, and extracurricular decisions.
The award of custody to the mother does not change until the father of the child takes action to establish his rights. In order for the father to establish custody, parenting time, and child support, parentage must be established.
Parentage can be established through an affidavit of parentage. This may be signed by the parties at the time of birth of the child, or any time afterwards.
If an affidavit of parentage was not signed, then the father must establish his rights to the child through a DNA test. Either party may file a petition to establish paternity (mother of child, someone identified as the father, or someone who believes he is the father).
The court then grants either party an order requiring the father, mother, and minor child to complete a DNA test. After a valid DNA test has been completed, and the results deem a specific man to the father, then the father can request the court to establish his rights to the child (custody, parenting time, and child support).
If the father does not believe a paternity test is necessary, then he must seek to have the court enter an order of filiation. An order of filiation is a court order declaring a man to be the biological father of a child born outside a marriage. Once an order of filiation has been entered by the court, the court now has jurisdiction to decide the matters of custody, parenting time, and child support on behalf of the father.
It is important to note that once the father is legally deemed the father of the child, he will now be financially responsible to provide for the child in the form of child support.
As the father of a child born outside of a marriage, it is critical to take action immediately. Each passing day means you and your child will not receive time together to establish an important parent-child bond. As the mother of a child born outside of marriage, each passing day means you and your child will not receive the financial support you deserve.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS – WE CAN HELP
At Schmitt Law, PLLC, we help parents work together to create a parenting plan that is in the best interests of your children. Through mediation, collaboration, or litigation, if necessary, our knowledgeable Michigan family law attorney will be your advocate and help you through this difficult time. We know your legal issues are unique and special. Call us, we will listen. To schedule a consultation or learn more about our services, contact Schmitt Law, PLLC online or call (616) 310-4975.