Whatever romantic feelings an unwed couple has for each other can disappear with the sudden news of pregnancy. That much is true as there are millions of single moms who are raising kids under 18 in the United States today. A 2011 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development also says that one in four American children are raised by single parents.
These martyrs for their offspring are to be admired for their determination to take care of human lives all on their own, but no one has to endure the extra burden of rearing their children by themselves. For women who have been abandoned by the men who are equally responsible for their pregnancy, filing a paternity suit is the logical first step to make sure they get the proper financial support.
However, the entire process more often than not turns out to be a very stressful experience for both parties involved. Court battles drag out, a substantial amount of money is spent, and emotions are always running high. So before taking this course of action, consider the following first:
Location – You cannot just file a paternity suit in any place. You must determine the state where the child was born or conceived. You can only file the suit within that state. Needless to say, it has to be in the county where you are currently residing in.
Documentation – You will receive all the necessary forms in filing the suit from the county clerk’s office, but you also have to provide proper personal identification. Information about the child’s alleged father such as his name and birth date will also be needed.
DNA Results – To determine paternity, courts will order DNA testing procedures for you, your child and the alleged father. Although the results of this test are mostly reliable, the alleged father has the right to contest them on the grounds of fraudulent testing, evidence of tampered results or evidence of the father’s impotence.
Parenting Rights – By establishing paternity, the alleged father will legally have the same rights you have over rearing the child. He has equal say in every parenting matter, including the child’s education and health.
You will also have to agree upon a visiting schedule, and failure to do so will force the court to make one for you. Denying the father his right to see your child will also result in legal action against you. If you do want to have exclusive custody over the child, you will have to present proof to the court of the father’s bad behavior towards the child.
The stakes in this legal battle are very high so you cannot afford to dive into the process headfirst without knowing the risks.