Establishing paternity and collecting child support go hand in hand. Until the court proves that a man is actually the child’s father, they aren’t responsible for providing child support. Think of it as the cliche “innocent until proven guilty” line that you hear sometimes in TV shows or movies.
But before we get into that, let’s briefly talk about some basics of paternity.
Basics of Paternity
The first thing we should do is help you understand a few common terms around paternity.
Acknowledged Paternity is when a biological father acknowledges paternity in writing or when both parents agree to the paternity. When a father has admitted paternity, they need to pay child support.
If a baby is born to a married couple, the husband is presumed to be the father of the child – this makes them the presumed father.
If the couple isn’t married when the child is born, there are other things that can make the man a presumed father:
- The man attempted to marry the mother and the child was conceived or born at that time
- The couple legally married after the baby was born and the man placed his name on the birth certificate
- The man held the child to be his own and welcomed him into his home
If a man feels like a presumption is incorrect, he should contact a family lawyer.
If a man is an alleged father, they are an unwed man who the court thinks is the biological parent of the child. It is on the father to disprove the allegation, unlike in a presumed paternity.
A stepfather is a man who marries the biological mother. He doesn’t have to financially support the children unless he adopts them legally.
Proving a Man is the Father
The most challenging situation is when a man is an alleged father. This generally means he doesn’t have a great relationship with the mother and doesn’t plan on being in a fatherly role. But if he is the alleged biological father, it’s on him to prove that he’s not.
This is typically done with a DNA test. If it turns out that the man is the father, the court will likely order him to begin providing child support to the mother of the child.
How is Child Support Determined
Sometimes we see a situation where there are unreasonable support demands. That said, usually the demands are fair and based on several factors.
One factor is the income levels of the father and mother. The wider the gap, the more child support will generally be required.
Another factor is the child’s needs. Health insurance, day care, special needs, education – all of these things play a role.
Standard of living also comes into play. What was the child’s standard of living before the separation or divorce?
While the two parents can come to terms on their own, this doesn’t happen most of the time. The state’s laws generally require that a judge approve whatever amount is decided upon. They do this to protect the child’s best interests.
For example, let’s say that the man was very aggressive and convinced the mother to agree to a very low amount- say $50 per month. The court wouldn’t approve such a low amount because they know that isn’t enough to help the mother take care of the child.
Before we wrap up, we should point out that child support in each state is different – California child support laws are going to be different than other states. But a lot of the general principles are the same, which are the things we discussed earlier.