What is a paternity case? In those cases where a man and woman are not married-and have a child, the courts step in and require the parents, usually the dad, to support the child for 18 years. The court also has the power to decide who shall be the primary parent, that is, who shall have primary custody of the child (referred to as the custodial parent) and how much time the other parent (usually called the non-custodial parent) shall spend with the child. To invoke the power of the court, a legal document is filed with the court, called, Complaint to Establish a Parental Relationship, and the proceedings are referred to as a paternity case.
Who can file the case? Either the mother or the alleged father can file the case. In most cases, the mother files because (1) she wants money from the alleged father, and (2) she does not want the father to visit with the child. However, a father can also file the paternity case-and this frequently happens when the mother refuses to let the father see the child.
The first issue to be determined in any paternity case is: Are you really the biological father? To answer this question, a DNA test is conducted on all parties. If properly administered, the test is extremely accurate. I can't stress enough to any man who is served with a paternity lawsuit the importance of seeking immediate action. If you ignore the papers, the court could proceed without you and conclude that you are the father, even though a blood test might later prove that you are not! As a matter of fact, if you ignore the papers long enough, you could be required to pay child support for 18 years even if it is later determined that you are not the father-and the court may not even allow you to take the blood test to prove that you are not the father. If you refuse to take the blood test, the court can resolve the issues of paternity and child support against you merely because you refused to take the test. Therefore, if you receive court papers, that is, a summons and petition, or if it is mailed to you or left at your house, do not hesitate. Contact a lawyer immediately.
What If I Am The Father & The Mother Won't Let Me See The Child? We abhor the word, “let” as it applies to custody-visitation cases. The child does not belong to the mother. It belongs equally to both of you. A child is not a piece of property like an automobile or a crock pot that a mother can loan out or “let” you visit. California law provides that courts must make orders that allow continuing and frequent contact with both parents. And the law further states that gender of the child or the parent has nothing to do with custody and visitation. There are judges who don't seem (or don't want) to understand this, but it is our job to convince these judges to follow the law as they are sworn to do. Recent studies have concluded that it is detrimental to the child to be deprived of as much time with both parents as possible (unless, of course, one parent is abusive). Recent studies have also concluded that, in many cases, a father can be a better parent than a mother-even if the child is very young.
The number of cases in which fathers are winning the battle to be the custodial parent is increasing!
How Much Support Will I Be Required to Pay? That depends on your income and mom's income. And if she is not working, or refuses to work, the court can impose sanctions that will encourage her to work. Basically, child support is calculated from an analysis of the parent's income. Unfortunately, your expenses, such as your car payment or credit card bills, are not considered by the court. However, there are creative and legal ways to keep your support payments at a minimum.
What if I Am Already Married and Father a Child with Another Woman? Needless to say, your wife will take a dim view of these facts, especially when she discovers that your paycheck stub reflects a deduction for child support. Your wife's income cannot be used in the calculation for the support of the other child. In some cases, the father not only finds himself faced with a paternity suit from the mother, but a divorce suit from the wife. Preventative law is our best advice. The new mother may have tricked you into impregnating her. Our best advice, of course, is to avoid these extra-marital relationships-but if you find that impossible, at least take every step to protect yourself. Don't rely on the other woman's birth control efforts.