If you have children with a person you are not married to, you must first legally establish paternity of that child before a court can enter a residential/visitation schedule or support order for that child. This is true whether or not you lived with the other parent in a relationship.
Paternity can be established by acknowledgment or by DNA testing. If the father wished to acknowledge paternity, the father must sign an Affidavit of Paternity and file it with the State Department of Health. An Affidavit of Paternity is required to establish paternity even if the father’s name appears on the birth certificate. If the father does not wish to acknowledge paternity of the child, the court will order an alleged father to complete DNA testing to determine whether or not he is the father. If the DNA test proves that the alleged father is in fact the father of the child, the court will enter an order amending the birth certificate and establishing paternity.
Once paternity has been established, the court has the authority to establish a residential schedule for the child at the request of either parent. The court will consider the same factors when establishing a residential schedule between the parents as it does when entering a parenting plan between divorcing parents. Please see the Custody and Visitation Tab above for additional information. The court will generally maintain the status quo between parents who have been living together with the child. Which means that, to the extent possible, the court will enter a residential schedule that is consistent with how the parents shared the parenting duties prior to separation.
When a father is seeking a residential schedule for a new born child, the father’s access to the child will typically be limited to shorter, more frequent visits with the child to establish a bond and develop a relationship. The scheduled time with the father will expand as the child gets older and can be away from the mother for longer periods of time. If a father is seeking a residential schedule with a child who he has not spent time with, his visits may begin as supervised visits until the child gets to know him and forms a bond with him.
Once paternity has been established, the law requires that both parents provide support for the child. An order on the support will be entered, even if the father does not have any contact with the child. Maintenance is ordered based upon each parent’s income. Please see the Child Support Tab above for more information. In a Paternity Action, back support can be ordered for up to five years prior to the paternity action being filed.