One of the most common type of custody cases that we encounter as family law attorneys are cases involving children born outside of the bonds of marriage. Some cases involve a boyfriend and girlfriend who have split apart. Some involve individuals who had no relationship at all, but for one reason or another conceived a child together, but who have no interest in residing together in the same home to raise the child. Regardless of the circumstances, there is a process in place for establishing the rights and duties between these parents so that each parent may have legal protection.
When individuals are seeking to protect their interests in a child who is born out of wedlock their first question is usually "what are my rights?" Generally speaking, as a parent of the child you have a natural and constitutional right to seek and have a relationship with your child. You also have statutory rights to receive financial help from the other parent for the care and maintenance of the child. However, these rights are not enforceable until they are established by a formal legal action. Very often, parents cannot come to a mutual agreement as to how much time each parent should be able to have the child, or how much each parent should have to pay towards the support of the child. Parents in these situations often become frustrated and all too often call on the police in hopes of enforcing what each parent perceives as his or her rights. In some instances, the parents have reached a verbal or even written agreement that one parent wants to enforce. But the police have no authority to enforce such agreements or to otherwise render decisions between the parents. Only the court has authority to resolve these problems. There are no shortcuts. Accordingly, until there is a formal legal recognition of the rights between the parents, there is no way to enforce these rights.
A parent desiring to establish and enforce his or her parental rights must do so by initiating a custody case called a "parentage action with the district court. Even in cases where the parties come to a mutual agreement on the issues, there is still a legal process that must be followed in order to have the parties' agreement accepted and signed by the court so that each parent's rights may be enforceable. If the parties can reach a mutual agreement the process may be simplified, but if the parties cannot reach an agreement, they must plan on attending court before a Commissioner or Judge and must convince the court of their position. There a numerous steps in this process, multiple rules that must be followed, and several legal standards that must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence through the proper presentation of facts and legal argument. If you can help it, you should not undertake this process without legal counsel. To learn more about this process, call the Law Offices of Andrew Fackrell or other qualified attorneys in the area to receive a consultation and learn how best to preserve and protect your rights.
In a parentage action there are several issues over which the court has jurisdiction to resolve between the parties. A short list of the issues you can expect to be determined are the following:
Custody and parent-time (visitation): How time with the child is to be shared or allocated between the parties. (Learn more about custody here)
Legal Custody: The rights each parent have to knowledge and information about the child, and how important decisions regarding the child are to be made. (Learn more about custody here)
Parenting Plan: Guidelines and limitations upon what each parent may and may not do with the child, and how each parent must treat one another.
Child Support: Who pays and how much is paid.
Medical and Dental Expenses: Who pays and how much is paid.
Daycare Expenses: Who pays and how much is paid.
Child Tax Benefits: How tax benefits received for the child should be apportioned each tax year.
Attorney's Fees: Whether one party should be responsible for the other's legal fees.