Mens Divorce Attorney, Cordell and Cordell
It’s not uncommon for family law attorneys to have clients with children that have never been married to the mother nor been to court who simply have verbal agreements about who pays what and who gets to see the child when.
In these situations, the mothers have all the power since unwed fathers generally have few rights to their children.
So if you are an unwed dad, here is what you should expect in terms of child support, parenting time, health insurance costs, etc., if your child’s mother finally takes you to court to have a judge formalize your relationship.
Paternity law in many states presumes the father of the child to be the man who is named on the child’s birth certificate regardless of marital status at the time of the child’s birth.
If you are not listed on the birth certificate, then in order to protect your rights you need to be adjudicated as the father of your child.
For example, in Texas where I practice, you can do this by contacting your local Bureau of Vital Statistics and filling out an acknowledgement of paternity form (AOP). You can also be adjudicated as the father by acknowledging the child as yours in court, on the record.
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If the mother of the child decides to take you to court to change your verbal agreement you can expect that you would be ordered to do the following:
Child Support: Where I practice, child support calculations require child support payors to be 20% of their net monthly income up to $7,500 per month.
If you are obligated to support other children then the percentage calculated will be reduced by approximately 3% for another child. Child support must be paid through the state registry and not directly to the mother anymore.
Informal payments paid directly to the mother are not considered child support. Therefore paying through the state registry protects the obligor (payor of child support).
Your obligation to pay child support and provide health insurance for the child end when your child turns 18 or graduates from a secondary school, or whatever your state lists as the age of emancipation. In Texas, if your child turns 18 while he is still in high school your obligation continues until he graduates from high school.
Health Insurance: In my state, you would be obligated to pay for the health insurance premium for the child through your own plan or reimburse the mother the premium cost if she provides the health insurance.
The amount of health insurance paid or ordered to be paid cannot exceed 9% of your net monthly income. The uninsured health expenses are generally split 50-50 by each party. Again, consult with an attorney for specific financial advice on how your jurisdiction handles health insurance.
Child Custody and Visitation: If you are the parent who the child does not primarily live with it, then it is likely the court would order a “Standard Possession Order.”
Unfortunately, most standard possession orders limit the visitation for non-custodial parents, usually the fathers. Standard parenting time schedules typically are every other weekends beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and ending at Sunday at 6:00 p.m.
In Texas, you can ask for “alternative possession times” which begin on every other Thursdays when your child is dismissed from school and ending on the following Monday when the child returns to school.
This alternative period of possession must be elected by you before the judge signs the final order.
The 2nd and 4th weeks you are entitled to parenting time with child on Thursdays beginning at 6:00 p.m. and ending at 8:00 p.m. or you can elect for your periods of possession to begin when your child gets out of school and return the child to school the following Friday.
Again, paternity law is complex and varies by state. Consult with a domestic litigation firm, such as Cordell and Cordell, for more information about the laws in your state.