Question: I live in Illinois. My daughter’s mother disappeared with my child years ago. I just found out that she was living in Georgia. After six years of no contact, she is now re-emerging and threatening to take me to court for back child support. Any suggestions?
Answer: You should contact a domestic litigation attorney in Georgia, we have attorneys licensed and located in Georgia who can assist you. I do not practice in Georgia. There are many follow up questions that would need to be answered in order to give you a better answer as to what your next steps should be, including, but not limited to: Was there ever an Order establishing paternity? Did you sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity form at the hospital? How long has she lived in Georgia and have you ever been to Georgia? A Georgia attorney will want answers to these questions and many more. He or she will then be able to discuss your rights and responsibilities based on Georgia statutes relating to paternity.
If there is a paternity order establishing paternity and ordering child support and you have not paid support the past six years, you would be in significant arrears. Despite the fact that you were not able to see the child for six years, the child support order during that time would stand. If you have not paid support, the mother could motion the court to hold you in contempt for failure to pay child support or a prosecutor could charge you criminally for failing to pay support. If paternity is established and you would like placement with your daughter, you should contact an attorney to motion the court for a change of custody and placement.
If there is not a paternity order establishing paternity, she would need to file a paternity action and ask for support. In this scenario, it is important to know whether you signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity or if you and the child were DNA tested. If you want visitation with your daughter, you would initiate a paternity action to become the adjudicated father. However, this would expose you to child support.
Consult an attorney immediately as there are jurisdiction issues that require an understanding of Georgia and Illinois law. Cordell & Cordell has attorneys who practice in both states.
Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.