The biological father of a child born outside of marriage (the “putative father”) is not legally recognized as the father until the paternity of the child has been adjudicated. Adding the putative father’s name to the child’s birth certificate does not establish paternity and/or constitute an adjudication of paternity. Parental rights, such as timesharing, can, therefore, be denied to the putative father even if the putative father’s name is listed on the minor child’s birth certificate.
In order to establish paternity, the putative father can initiate a paternity action by filing a Petition to Establish Paternity in the county in which the minor child resides. The putative father must then serve a copy of the Petition on the mother of the minor child, and the mother of the minor child will have 20 days to file an Answer to the Petition. Within the first 45 days of the paternity action, the parties are required to exchange sworn financial affidavits and mandatory disclosures, including three years of U.S. Income Tax Returns, pay stubs or other evidence of income for the last three months, three months of checking account statements, twelve months of savings account statements, twelve months of credit card statements, and documentation that evidences the value of any assets and/or liabilities. These disclosures will be used to calculate each parent’s child support obligation.
The parties to a paternity proceeding will also be required to enter into a timesharing agreement. If the parties cannot agree on a schedule, the Court will order the parties to comply with a timesharing schedule that the Court believes to be in the best interests of the minor child. The Court will also decide whether sole or shared parental responsibility is in the best interests of the minor child if the parties cannot agree.
By initiating a paternity action, the putative father can, therefore, establish: (i) paternity of the minor child; (ii) each parent’s child support obligation; (iii) each parent’s timesharing schedule with the minor child; and (iv) parental responsibility for the minor child.