Unmarried Fathers and Child Support

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Most Common Family Law Issues:

Are Unmarried Fathers Required to Pay Child Support?

Yes, the father must support his child even if he was never married to the child's mother. If the father does not admit he is the child's parent, fatherhood can also be proven with paternity tests.

When a mother is not married, it may not be clear who the father is. In some states, agreeing to be the legal father may not be broken later even if paternity tests later show that the man is not the father. If you are being asked to be the legal father of a child and you are not sure the child is yours, check your state laws first.

A man can become the legal father without marrying the mother if he welcomes the child into his home and openly holds the child out as his own. In some states this will also create a legal duty that cannot be broken by paternity tests showing that the man is not the father. 

How Is Paternity Established?

Without establishing paternity, the unwed father has no legal responsibility in custody  or child support issues. Paternity can be established by:

Once paternity has been established and the father has been determined, the father would be responsible for paying child support even if the father does not have child custody or visitation rights.

How Much Child Support Must the Father Pay?

Child support is based on a number of different factors. The amount that the father is responsible for paying  is determined by the parents’ individual incomes and responsibilities, the availability of other financial support the child is receiving, and the basic needs of the child.

Once the court sets the amount that the father is responsible for paying, the child support obligation is enforceable by the courts and other government agencies. If the father does not comply with the court's order, severe punishments and consequences may be undertaken by the court.

What If There Is No Court Order to Pay Child Support?

The obligation to pay child support does not depend on marriage or a court order. A father owes a duty to provide for his children.

Trouble often arises in this area when a mother seeks public assistance. The welfare department will sooner or later discover who the legal or biological father is and pursue the father for reimbursement based on his support obligation. It could take years for this to develop, so a man may be accumulating thousands of dollars of back support without knowing it. 

If I Marry a Mother with Children, Will I Have to Support My New Stepchildren?

No, unless a stepfather legally adopts the children or is actually the father, a man will not be obligated to provide support for his stepchildren.

Seeking Legal Help

This is a very complicated issue in the law, particularly with a mother who is not sure about the father of her children and desperate for support. Consult a family law attorney to understand your rights and answer any questions you have.

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Last Modified: 09-05-2014 12:44 PM PDT

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