Monday, July 22, 2013

Hoosier Daddy? Paternity - Your Rights vs. Your Responsibilities

How do you ensure you are a part of your child's life?  Can you lose rights to your child if you do nothing?  These are very important questions for Hoosier men.  The answers are complicated but will be addressed in a somewhat general fashion in this blog post.

Father's Rights, Birth CertificateIf you sign a paternity affidavit at the hospital, you will be placed on your child's birth certificate.  This documents that you have admitted paternity.  It provides you with some measure of assurance that you will be able to be a part of your child's life.  It does not, however, ensure that you may have parenting time (visitation) at certain times if you and the child's mother do not see eye to eye in the future. It also does not institute any formal child support obligation upon you.  You will have no actual custody or parenting time rights to your child solely because you have signed the affidavit and have been listed as the father on the birth certificate.

In order to cement your role and establish parenting time, attempt to obtain custody, and establish child support, you must file in court to establish paternity, parenting time, child support and custody. In a paternity action, the mother will be presumed to have sole custody of the child, and you may have limited parenting time, to begin with, depending on the age of the child and your prior interaction with the child.  However, you may argue for joint custody, or sole custody, should either apply in your situation.  Joint custody provides you with more say in your child's upbringing regarding things like school, religion, and medical decisions. Various factors would go into a determination about whether or not a judge will grant you joint or sole custody.  You should seek an attorney knowledgeable in family law with the ability to assist you in analyzing your situation and bringing forth facts and evidence to show why you obtaining joint or sole custody would be in the best interests of your child, the standard the judge must use.

In order to establish custody and parenting time, child support must also be established, resulting in an obligation upon you to pay the child's mother support for certain needs of the child, or vice versa.  There is a child support calculator located at IN.GOV, which would allow you to run some numbers to determine what child support may be, if you know the mother's weekly gross salary, yours, and any daycare expenses and insurance expenses for the child.

With regard to paternity, if you don't use it, you may lose it.  If you were not around at birth, or the baby's mother did not tell you about the baby, and/or you didn't sign the paternity affidavit, if you do nothing within the first two years of the child's life, by law, you lose the right to assert paternity.  If  the baby's mother later agrees to allow you to proceed in a paternity action, you would be able to pursue paternity subsequent to the two years passing, but only with her agreement.  If you signed the paternity affidavit and are on the birth certificate, you may establish custody, child support and parenting time at anytime during the child's life as a minor, as the paternity affidavit tolls the two year right to assert paternity.

Further, if the baby's mother intends to give the baby up for adoption, and you've done nothing to assert paternity, including putting your name in the Indiana Putative Father Registry, you lose the right to challenge the adoption.  Thus, you need to take affirmative action, close in time to the baby's birth, should you desire to be a part of the child's life. 

Being a father is important, as everyone needs their daddy...  Don't wait until it's too late to understand your rights and responsibilities.  To establish full rights to your child, you must be ready to take on the added responsibilities of child support, when applicable.  In order to fully understand and obtain the best situation for you and your child, contact an attorney who talks straight, listens to you, learns who you are, and applies that information in court to fight for you and your child's future or continued relationship!

*Nothing written or stated in this blog is meant to be legal advice forming an attorney/client relationship.  The statements are the opinion of the blogger only.