My One-Night Stand Produced a Child.
I cannot count the number of times I have met mothers and fathers in this situation. Suffice it to say, you are not alone. There are many questions you may be asking yourself, not to mention, how to deal with this change in your life. This guide will cover the Paternity Action.
The DNA TestIf you were served with a Paternity Action from the Department of Child Support Services, it is because the Mother of the child is claiming that you are the biological Father of the child, and is seeking child support from you. Before the county can make child support orders, it has to prove that you are the biological Father. They will ask that you submit to a DNA test. Do not skip this test, and agree that you are the Father, even if you think you are the child's biological father. It always gives my clients peace of mind, not to mention that it is your right to have the test completed. Additionally, if you do genetic testing in the future, after the court has already declared you the Father of the child, there is a statue of limitations and case law which says that regardless of whether or not you are the biological Father, if a certain amount of time has passed, and you already were declared the Father, leaving the child without a Father is not in his or her best interest, and you will still be legally obligated to provide support to the child. You do not need to go through Department of Child Support Services to have the court declare that someone is the father of a child. The Department of Child Support Services has an office within its unit specifically to do genetic testing. If they do not, they wll make arrangements for the testing to be performed. If you do not want to use the Department of Child Support Services to assist in your case (assuming you are not on public assistance) you may file your case in your local Superior Court Family Law division. There are pros and cons to filing the action on your own. But consult with an attorney before you decide which route you will pursue. They will be able to guide you to DNA testing facilities in your city to help move this process along. In any event, you must be declared the biological father of the child before any other orders can be made in your matter.
Child SupportMost of the time, the Paternity action is commenced to obtain child support or reimburse the State for public assistance that is being provided to the Mother and child. If you are found to be a genetic match to the child, the court will most likely set child support orders from the date they filed their motion for child support. This may mean that you have an arrears depending on the length of time between your court date and the date the motion was filed. Child support is a function of the income of the parties and time spent with the child. If you do not have custody of the child or any visitation with the child, in most cases, the Mother's income will then be irrelevant to the amount of support paid. Therefore, many fathers, seek visitation rights to the child once they are declared to be the Father. If you do not want a relationship with the child, that is completely up to you. Just be aware that your support may be higher. Child support is based on your income. Income is anything that is considered income by the IRS. In the State of California, that is any income earned within the last 12 months. You will have to declare your income under the penalty of perjury, and I strongly recommend you seek assistane from an attorney before filing out any paperwork regarding your income or submitting anything to the other party regarding your income. There is a calculator on the Department of Child Support website, and I have found that it is often incorrect. The court's use a program called DissoMaster. I would use the Department of Child Support Calculator for a rough estimate of what you might be looking at in terms of child support. But, your local family law attorney, or even the family courthouse has DissoMaster available for you to use.
Custody and VisitationIn most cases, the father will have some visitation, the amount will depend on what is in the best interest of the child. You will go to see a Child Custody Recommending Counseling Mediator (formerly Family Court Services) and try to work out an agreement. Only the parties are allowed to participate. San Diego County mediators report their findings to the court. So, if you do not reach an agreement, statements and sentitments that are made during mediation are shared with the court. They will make recommendations to the court and 9 times out of 10, courts will follow these recommendations. You may challenge the findings but I would again recommend you speak to an attorney before mediation and after mediation to find out what you can do.