Frequently Asked Questions
How long will my case take?
There is no set time for a paternity action. Most cases are resolved within one court hearing, which takes about six weeks to obtain. However, if there the court needs additional information to make a decision, there could be additional court hearings.
How does paternity differ from divorce?
The issues surrounding a paternity case are simple. The court only has to resolve four things: paternity, child support, child custody and child visitation. A divorce involves multiple other issues, such as dividing property and debts. Additionally, there is no waiting period in a paternity case. A judgment can be entered after the first hearing and usually does not require a trial whereas a divorce has a “waiting period” before the marriage can be dissolved.
Is there any way to speed up the process?
Yes. The parties can agree on who the father of the child is. This will avoid a paternity test, but both parties must be 100% sure before entering into such an agreement. However, getting into court requires the parties to wait for their court date. Many other people also have disputes and need a court hearing, as well. One has to wait his or her turn.
Is there any way to avoid court?
You can avoid having to go to court altogether if you and the other parent agree to the terms of the judgment from the outset. If you cannot agree, you will have to go to court at least once.
Does it matter who files first?
While it usually does not matter who files first, there are some times when it will make a difference. The most common reasons are: there is a controversy over venue or there is an allegation of domestic violence. There are other instances when timing matters. Discuss the “how” and “when” of filing with your attorney because each person’s situation is different.
How do I keep the kids spending time with the other parent’s friend?
If the other parent is in a new relationship and you do not like the person around your children, there is very little you can do. You cannot withhold visitation, nor can you dictate what the other parent does during his or her time with the children. It is up to the other parent to make good decisions for the children and act in their best interest when he or she is with them. This is a parenting decision and the court will defer to the parent. However, if this new person poses a danger to your children, the court will intervene and not allow him or her around your children.
How do I make sure the other parent spends child support on our children?
You cannot dictate what the other parent does with support money. The court has no power to oversee how the money is being spent. Support money can be spent as that parent sees fit. If you believe the other parent is not spending the support on the children and your children are being neglected, you should petition the court for full custody.
I am not receiving support, what do I do?
There are multiple ways to obtain and enforce a court order for support. Start by notifying your lawyer. If your spouse is not paying support, do not withhold visitation. Those are separate issues. You can lose custody of your children if you withhold visitation.
How can I be sure the child is mine?
Genetic testing is available in most instances. You can ask the court to order testing, which is a relatively quick and inexpensive process.
We agree, will the judge approve the orders?
If you and your spouse have an agreement, the court will approve the agreement and make it a court order even if your agreement is something the court would not, or could not, order on its own.
Can I move out of state with the children?
It is extremely difficult to move out of state if the other parent objects. It requires permission from the court or the other parent. Even if the father is not listed on the birth certificate, consult an attorney before you move.
Who pays for our children’s college?
Child support orders terminate when the first one of these events occur:
· The child turns eighteen (18) years of age and is already a high school graduate,
· If the child is still a full-time high school student and living with a parent when he or she turns 18, child support is paid until the child graduates from high school or reaches age nineteen (19) years, whichever occurs first,
· The child dies,
· The child becomes emancipated,
· The court changes or terminates the order.
There is no obligation for a parent to help pay for college once child support is terminated.
Can I change the orders later?
Orders concerning custody, visitation, and child support are always modifiable. However, once a judgment is entered, the court may require a change of circumstances even to change a modifiable order.