Recently on our legal forum a dad asked, “I had a romantic relationship with a woman about a year and a half ago. I just found out she had my baby. We were never married, and I did not want a child. Am I responsible for paying child support?”
Overview of Child Support
Child support is monthly payments paid to care for children who are not living with both parents. The goal of child support is to ensure that children do not become the sole responsibility of the state. And to answer your question, child support can be ordered regardless of whether one parent is married to the other or even has contact with the child. In fact, child support is always required unless the court and both parents agree to sever the legal parental rights of the parent.
How much will you pay for child support?
Child support calculations vary by state. State calculations will require courts to review a variety of factors including the amount of income of each parent, the amount of time spent in each household, the parent’s earning potential, the educational and health needs of the child, and the number of children to be supported. Some states also provide basic formulas to simplify the child support calculation.
How do I know I am really the father?
Prior to paying child support the paternity of the child needs to be established. There are generally three ways to establish paternity (specific methods may vary by state):
- Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP)- you can sign a free legal document which acknowledges you are the father of the child.
- Agreed Paternity Order- both parents and the judge can sign a court order stating you are the father of your child. Specific rights and obligations regarding child support, visitation, and medical support are also determined.
- Court ordered paternity- if you and the mother do not agree on paternity a court ordered paternity test can be ordered to resolve the identity of the child. The good news is that DNA tests are extremely reliable and can rule out paternity with 100% accuracy. If the test determines you are the child’s father, however, the court will order you to pay child support and may grant you visitation rights.
Why is it important to establish paternity?
You mentioned you did not want to be a father. If the child is determined to be your child you may not have much of a choice. Hopefully, once you spend time with the child and establish a relational bond your feelings will change. It’s also important to consider the benefits for your child of having a dad.
Although society downplays the necessity of a father, studies indicate fathers can be critical to the health and welfare of children. For example, studies indicate having a dad has a positive impact on scholastic achievement, emotional health, masculinity, behavior, self-worth, and self-esteem.
Although this news might be a shock. Having a child can be one of life’s greatest blessings. You can choose to develop a relationship with your child or not, but you are going to pay either way.
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