You are having a baby! You are proud parents to-be. But you are not married. There are significant differences between being married and having a baby and not being married and having a baby. Those differences have serious legal ramifications.
The two of you are living together and things are fine, for a while. Legal issues are the furthest thing from your minds. Suddenly your relationship starts to deteriorate and soon you separate.
Who has what rights regarding your child? It may not be what you think. Some issues are common to both mother and father. Some relate only to the mother; some relate only to the father.
FATHER’S LEGAL RIGHTS
Until an unmarried father legally establishes paternity of the child, he has no rights whatsoever regarding the child. Paternity can be established by signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity at the time of the child’s birth or by filing a complaint to establish paternity, custody and support in the Probate Court of the county where the child resides. Once the paternity has been established, the father acquires rights and obligations regarding the child including custody, visitation, decision making and paying child support.
There is a statutory presumption that the mother has sole custody of the child. This is a rebuttable presumption, meaning that it is just the starting point. The relationship between the parents, as well as the relationship each parent has with and the child are two of the factors a judge would view to determine custody. In the end, a judge’s responsibility is to determine what is in the best interests of the child.
Child support may be ordered to be paid retroactively from the date of the child’s birth. This rule of retroactivity can be quite harsh if a Complaint for Support is brought years after birth. Support provided during a period of cohabitation will certaqinly mitigate any retroactive support should the family unit break down.
When the family unit is intact, parenting time is an issue only between the parents. However, when the family is not intact, the non-custodial parent has a right to parenting time. The age of the child, the relationship between the child and the parent, the relationship between the parents and any other issue that relates to the welfare of the child are factors in determining the type and frequency of parenting time.
A PATERNITY LAWYER CAN HELP YOU PROTECT AND FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS
Establishing Paternity rights can be a very complicated matter. The courts do not advise you of your rights and without a paternity lawyer you may not receive all to which you are entitled. When you are fighting for your rights of custody, child support and parenting time in a Paternity matter, contact a Paternity lawyer at the Law Office of Hans R. Hailey. The earlier in the process you speak with an attorney, the better. You may hurt your case and not fully realize what rights and obligations you have.